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House working on bill to ban Russian oil imports

( Hill )

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a letter Sunday that the House is exploring legislative options to isolate Russia, including a ban on Russian oil and energy.

"Our bill would ban the import of Russian oil and energy products into the United States, repeal normal trade relations with Russia and Belarus, and take the first step to deny Russia access to the World Trade Organization," Pelosi said in a letter to colleagues. "We would also empower the Executive branch to raise tariffs on Russian imports."

The House speaker noted that the Biden administration had requested $10 billion for "humanitarian, military and economic support for Ukraine," and said "Congress intends to enact this emergency funding this week as part of our omnibus government funding legislation."

Pelosi's letter comes after a bipartisan bill was introduced in the Senate earlier in the week to ban Russian oil imports. That measure was led by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who chairs of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), a senior member of the committee.

“The United States cannot continue to purchase millions of barrels of oil while Putin wages an unprovoked and unjustified war on Ukraine,” said Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who said on Saturday that he would support the bill.

The billions in new funding for Ukraine would be part of omnibus spending plan. The Ukraine push adds even more pressure on Congress to wrap up work on government funding legislation in time for a March 11 deadline, after the cutoff date was previously pushed back several times to buy negotiators more time for spending talks.

Though the Biden administration has been hesitant to target Russia's energy resources in its crippling sanctions on the country, the White House signaled on Friday that the president was considering steps to reduce U.S. imports of Russian oil.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said earlier on Sunday that the U.S. was engaging in an “active discussion” about the possibility of banning Russian oil imports.

“When it comes to oil, Russian oil, I was on the phone yesterday with president and other members of the Cabinet on exactly the subject. And we are now talking to our European partners and allies to look in a coordinated way at the prospect of banning the import of Russian oil while making sure that there is still an appropriate supply of oil on world markets,” Blinken said on CNN.

On Thursday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that the U.S. does not “have a strategic interest in reducing the global supply of energy and that would raise prices at the gas pump for the American people around the world.”

However, Pelosi voiced support of the move on Thursday when asked about a potential ban.

“Ban the oil coming from Russia," she said. “I'm all for that — ban it."

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