The US House of Representatives voted to suspend trade relations with Russia and Belarus over the former’s invasion of Ukraine. The move hopes to sink Russia’s economy by further reducing international trade opportunities.
Bipartisan House Votes To Suspend Trade Relations With Russia, Belarus
In another rare bipartisan showing, the House voted 424 to 8 to suspend trade relations with Russia and Belarus.
The bill included Belarus, a country that made clear its support for Russia’s continuing attempt to overcome Ukraine militarily.
This bill joins another Russia-related measure passed by the House last week that seeks to ban oil and energy imports.
The House is awaiting its counterpart Senate bill so it can reconcile the measure. Afterward, it will send the bills to President Joe Biden for his signature.
Last week, Biden announced that the US, the European Union, and G7 countries were moving to revoke the “most favored nation” trade status of Russia. In addition to oil, gas, and coal imports, the US will also ban Russian seafood, diamonds, and vodka imports.
House Moving More Aggressively Than The White House
House Ways and Means Chairman Richie Neal (MA) and Ranking Member Kevin Brady (TX) initiated the bipartisan bill. The House’s move to suspend trade relations with Russia and Belarus moved quickly to get a consensus.
It’s one of the many examples of the chamber moving faster and more aggressively against Russia versus the White House.
However, Democrats delayed voting for the bill because Biden said he wanted to discuss the move with other countries. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (MD), said the Democrats gave in to the President’s request as a courtesy.
The House bill also requires the current US Trade Representative to ask for a suspension of Russia’s participation in the World Trade Organization.
The USTR must also work to prevent the inclusion of Belarus in the WTO. In addition, the trade representative must reactivate sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act.
Russia Must Withdraw All Forces From Ukraine
Another point of contention for the bill during negotiations was determining the conditions that can revoke the suspension.
The Republicans wanted stricter standards that Russia must meet before the US can resume trading with Moscow. Among the conditions was that Russia withdraws its forces from Ukraine and cease hostilities.
However, the Ukrainian government must accept the terms of withdrawal. Russia’s activities shouldn’t also pose immediate military threats to NATO.
Finally, Russia must recognize Ukraine’s independence unconditionally. Should Congress and the White House disagree on the conditions, the House reserves the right to overrule Biden.
Only 8 Republicans Said No to Bill
Eight Republican votes prevented the bill from a unanimous approval. The votes came from the highly conservative wing of the GOP.
They include Andy Biggs (AZ), Dan Bishop (NC), Lauren Boebert (CO), Matt Gaetz (FL), and Marjorie Taylor Greene (GA). Also joining them are Republicans Glenn Grothman (WI), Thomas Massie (KY), and Chip Roy (TX).
The vote came a day after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed members of Congress. He urged the US not to give “a single penny” that Russia can use to destroy people in Ukraine. Zelensky said that all American ports of entry shouldn’t accept any kind of Russian goods.
Prior to the vote, Rep. Neal urged the House to respond to Ukraine’s request for help. Zelenskyy “showed us the absolute horrors that Russia is inflicting on the Ukrainian people,” he said. “And he pleaded for us to do more. With this bill, today, we answer his call,” he added.
Watch the PBS NewsHour video reporting that the House votes to suspend normal trade relations with Russia, Belarus:
What do you think of the House’s bill that called for a suspension of trade relations with Russia and Belarus? Will this amount to anything to help push Russia toward withdrawing from Ukraine? Or, will this be another bill that’s more story than substance?
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