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House votes to suspend trade relations with Russia and Belarus

Biden pledges additional aid to Ukraine
Biden sending additional aid to Ukraine following Zelenskyy's plea to Congress 06:04

In an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote of 424 yeas to 8 nays, the House has voted to suspend permanent normal trade relations with Russia and Belarus in a further attempt to isolate Russia economically following the country's invasion of Ukraine three weeks ago.

The move follows President Biden's announcement last week that the at the U.S., European Union and G7 countries were moving to revoke Russia's "most favored nation" trade status, and that the U.S. would take steps to ban the import of Russian seafood, diamonds and vodka, he said. 

The bill joins another measure the House passed last week, to ban Russian oil and gas imports, which is in awaiting Senate consideration.

The bipartisan bill was negotiated by House Ways and Means Chairman Richie Neal of Massachusetts and Ranking Member Kevin Brady of Texas and was originally expected early last week, but Democratic leaders delayed a vote because President Biden wanted to discuss the move with allies, according to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. It was yet another example of moving more aggressively than the White House to seek ways to punish Russia for the invasion.

Russian Ukraine War Congress
The U. S. Capitol is seen at sunrise in Washington, Wednesday, March 16, 2022. Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will virtually address the U.S. Congress Wednesday morning.  Jose Luis Magana / AP

One point of contention during negotiations this week, a GOP aide said, was the conditions under which the president would be allowed to restore normal trade relations. The GOP wanted stricter standards, which were ultimately reflected in the final bill: Russia must withdraw forces from Ukraine or cease military hostilities in an agreement that is accepted by the Ukrainian government; pose no immediate military threat to NATO, and recognize Ukraine's independence. If Congress does not agree with the president that those conditions have been met, it can overrule the president's attempt to restore relations with a resolution of disapproval. 

The measure also requires the U.S. Trade Representative to try to suspend Russia's participation in the World Trade Organization and stop Belarus' accession to the WTO and re-authorizes sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, which will allow the U.S. to impose additional individual sanctions. 

The broad bipartisan support meant the bill was passed under an accelerated path that required a two-thirds vote. The eight '"no"' votes were all Republicans: Andy Biggs of Arizona, Dan Bishop of North Carolina, Lauren Boebert of Colorado, Matt Gaetz of Florida, Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, Glenn Grothman of Wisconsin, Thomas Massie of Kentucky and Chip Roy of Texas.

The vote comes one day after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed members Congress and asked them "to make sure that the Russians do not receive a single penny that they use to destroy people in Ukraine.  The destruction of our country, the destruction of Europe, all American ports should be closed for Russian goods." 

In a speech ahead of the vote Thursday, Neal said Zelenskyy "showed us the absolute horrors that Russia is inflicting on the Ukrainian people, and he pleaded for us to do more."

"With this bill, today, we answer his call," he said. 

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