House Votes To Suspend Trade Relations With Russia, Belarus

SERGEI GUNEYEV/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images

Michael Ginsberg Congressional Correspondent
Font Size:

The House of Representatives nearly unanimously voted on Thursday to suspend trade relations with Russia and Belarus.

The bill, proposed by Democratic Massachusetts Rep. Richard Neal, the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, and Republican ranking member Kevin Brady of Texas, orders President Joe Biden to increase tariffs on Russian and Belarusian goods. It also instructs U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai to move to expel both countries from the World Trade Organization.

All named actions can be overturned if Russia halts its invasion of Ukraine. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has allowed Russia to use his country as a staging ground for attacks on Ukraine.

The bill passed 424-8, with all Democrats and all but eight Republicans voting in favor.

“President Zelenskyy’s powerful remarks to Congress yesterday only strengthened our resolve to further isolate and weaken Putin. This legislation builds on last week’s energy import ban to inflict even greater economic pain on the Russian regime and its enablers. We must do all we can to hold Putin accountable for senselessly attacking the Ukrainian people and undermining global stability. The suspension of normal trade relations is an essential part of our effort to restore peace, save lives, and defend democracy,” Neal and Brady said in a statement.

President Joe Biden issued a ban on all Russian energy imports on March 8 in the face of bipartisan pressure from Congress, including Democratic leaders. A large portion of American trade with Russia is in the energy sector. Although Russia was the 26th largest trading partner with the U.S. in 2019, the U.S. imported the second-most oil from Russia out of all countries in 2020. (RELATED: House Republicans Reveal The One Policy they Want Biden To Announce At State Of The Union)

The Biden administration has already issued major sanctions on the Russian government, Russian economic institutions, and President Vladimir Putin personally. They include freezes on Russian banks, including a ban from the SWIFT messaging system. U.S. allies have also seized assets, most notably yachts, from Russian oligarchs.

Russia responded by sanctioning Biden personally, top administration officials, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and the president’s son Hunter.