Biden set to ban Russian energy imports after bipartisan pressure

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Biden set to ban Russian energy imports after bipartisan pressure

President Biden will announce a ban on Russian energy imports Tuesday after a bipartisan coalition in Congress threatened to force his hand to punish Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Biden was expected to formally announce the restrictions in a 10:45 a.m. address from the Roosevelt Room of the White House.

It would be the third time that Biden resisted a major set of sanctions in response to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion — only to adopt them in response to bipartisan pressure.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) last week endorsed an oil import ban bill pushed by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WVa.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) — all but ensuring it had enough support to sail through Congress.

 On Monday, the top Democrats and Republicans on House and Senate committees that oversee trade announced their own legislation, which would both bar Russian energy imports and suspend normal trade with Moscow and its close ally Belarus.

Some Democrats were appalled that restrictions weren’t put in place earlier as Russia’s military moved to encircle Ukraine’s capital and largest city, Kyiv, amid reports of significant civilian casualties in the battle for the country’s second-largest city of Kharkiv.

“It is so obviously apparent that we need to cut it off. I wonder if there’s a reason we haven’t [and] what the hell the reason is,” Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) told NBC News last week.

The US imported about 200,000 barrels of oil from Russia per day in 2021, about 3 percent of its total intake, according to the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said at a Thursday press briefing that Russia accounted for “only about 10 percent of our imports.”

After weeks of continued pressure, President Biden has officially announced sanctions against Russian oil imports.
After weeks of continued pressure, President Biden has officially announced sanctions against Russian oil imports.
AP Photo/Patrick Semansky
The White House resisted cutting off Russian energy by noting that it could cause the price of US gasoline to increase.
The White House resisted cutting off Russian energy by noting that it could cause the price of US gasoline to increase.
REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko/File Photo

As recently as Monday afternoon, Psaki was telling White House reporters that “no decision has been made at this point by the president” about an import ban.

NATO allies in Europe have not announced their own bans on Russian oil and natural gas, which comprise a much larger share of their domestic energy consumption. Much of Europe’s fuel supply traverses Ukrainian pipelines.

On Monday, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz acknowledged that “Europe’s supply of energy for heat generation, mobility, power supply and industry cannot be secured in any other way” except with Russian fuel.

The White House had resisted cutting off Russian energy by noting that it could cause the price of US gasoline to increase, in turn exacerbating already soaring inflation, which is at a 40-year high.

“Reducing global oil supply would have an impact on the price of barrels of oil and ultimately gas prices,” Psaki said Friday.

Some Democrats were appalled that restrictions weren't put in place earlier as Russia's military moved to encircle Ukraine's capital and largest city, Kyiv.
Some Democrats were appalled that restrictions weren’t put in place earlier as Russia’s military moved to encircle Ukraine’s capital and largest city, Kyiv
AP Photo/Matthew Brown, File
The legislation for the sanctions was introduced by Sen. Joe Manchin and Sen.  Lisa Murkowski.
The legislation for the sanctions was introduced by Sen. Joe Manchin and Sen. Lisa Murkowski.
Rod Lamkey – CNP / MEGA
The new sanctions come as several Russian oligarchs and even Russian President Vladimir Putin face sanctions of their own.
The new sanctions come as several Russian oligarchs and even Russian President Vladimir Putin face sanctions of their own.
Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP

Biden initially announced limited sanctions against state-owned Russian banks and certain Russian businessmen when tanks rolled across Ukraine’s borders on Feb, 24. After criticism, Biden sanctioned Putin’s vast personal wealth and reached an agreement with US allies to unplug Russia from the SWIFT international banking system.

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