Biden administration officials have repeatedly privately told top Democratic officials in recent days that they plan to move forward with a ban on Russian oil imports. When they didn’t deliver, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) decided to press ahead on her own, according to people familiar with the matter.
Ms Pelosi addressed the issue during a Tuesday morning meeting with House Democrats, the people said. The speaker said she still plans to vote on a bill she played a key role in shaping the ban on Russian oil imports, even after President Biden decided to go forward with a ban using its own executive authority.
In a letter to House Democrats announcing the move, she said the legislation would also review Russia’s access to the World Trade Organization and renew the Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act to that the United States can impose new sanctions on Russia.
Democratic leaders had originally planned to introduce the legislation Tuesday night in a fast-track process, but then decided to postpone the vote until Wednesday because it was unclear what Republican support the measure would attract.
It is unclear whether the House bill would go forward in the Senate. Democratic senators highlighted the ban announced by the White House on Tuesday or said they would discuss it in their policy meetings on Wednesday.
“We need to see what the House passes first, and then we’ll discuss things with the administration and figure out the best way to make sure the oil import ban is tough and strict,” the chief of the committee said. Majority Chuck Schumer (D., NY).
The pending House vote follows an extraordinary few days in which senior Biden administration officials sought to persuade House Democrats to drop or scale back their plans to move forward with the bill, the people said. Some in the administration worried that the legislation as drafted would weaken the president’s power to lift sanctions on Russia, if necessary, by requiring a vote in Congress to do so, one of the officials said. people. Punchbowl News previously reported this concern.
Others in the administration raised concerns with lawmakers and staff about the trade-related provisions in the original version of the legislation, the people said, fearing the measures would not be consistent with what European officials were suing. The Biden administration has sought to coordinate with Europe as it rolls out economic sanctions against Russia.
Asked for comment, a White House official said, “We support Congress using its authorities to hold Russia accountable and we are working with Congress on all of these efforts.” The official declined to comment on private conversations between the administration and Congress. The administration is keeping Congress informed of its discussions with its allies on a range of issues, the official added.
Senior Biden administration officials were initially reluctant to ban imports of Russian oil, something the United States has been discussing for months. But bipartisan momentum in Congress, coupled with calls from Ukrainian officials as Russia continued its advance, persuaded the White House to act.
Concerns about already high gasoline prices were at the forefront of the administration’s internal deliberations in recent days, the people said. Mr. Biden and his senior advisers have for months paid close attention to the effect high prices are having on the president’s policy stance as he approaches midterm. Republicans have sought to blame Mr. Biden for record inflation.