Legislation to revoke Russia’s permanent normal trade relations status and ban hit procedural delays. But, the Senate ultimately delivered, and the House gave its final approval a few hours later.
In a rare unanimous vote, the Senate voted 100-0 on Thursday morning to officially strip Russia and its ally Belarus of permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) status with the United States.
The House voted 420-3 to approve the measure a few hours later, and the bill now heads to President Biden’s desk for his signature. Biden had announced on March 11 that the United States would work to end normalized trade relations with Russia; many U.S. allies also said they would do the same.
In a separate bill, the Senate also approved a ban on imports of Russian oil and gas, again in a 100-0 vote.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on the Senate floor that revoking Russia’s PNTR will make it more difficult for Russian President Vladimir Putin to carry out his brutal, unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.
“The legislation will go a long way to landing a painful, severe blow on Putin’s economy,” Schumer said. “It will hinder his ability to keep funding his war machine, and adds Russia as well as Belarus to a list of nations, including North Korea, that are ineligible for free trade with the United States.”
While the bills quickly passed the House, they faced procedural hurdles in the Senate. But lawmakers worked into the night to get a deal in place.
“Putin must absolutely be held accountable for the detestable and despicable war crimes he is committing against Ukraine,” Schumer said, calling Russia’s slaughter of civilians in Bucha “pure, pure evil.”
“No nation whose military is committing war crimes deserves free trade status with the United States,” Schumer said. “No vile thug like Putin deserves to stand as an equal with the leaders of the free world. He is a menace and a pariah who has ensured that his place in history will be one of everlasting shame.”
Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), who Schumer noted helped lead negotiations on the legislation, said that the effort reflects “the best of what Ukraine desperately seeks to preserve, and that which Vladimir Putin is determined to destroy: freedom, and representative government.”
“It strikes directly at Putin, and cuts off the lifeblood for his war machine and his autocracy,” Crapo said, later adding that the legislation “signifies a standing commitment to the Ukrainian people and to our NATO allies that is more durable than Putin’s machinations in Ukraine.”
With Russia’s PNTR status revoked, tariffs on Russian goods imported to the United States will rise significantly. Of course, many Russian-made products already are banned from U.S. shores. Along with the oil and gas ban approved by the Senate on Thursday, the Biden administration previously announced a ban on a number of products that are critical to the Russian economy, including diamonds, vodka and seafood.
On their own, these individual actions are not likely to stop the invasion. However, the hope is that all of these efforts together — in combination with other sanctions put in place by both the United States and allied nations, including in the European Union — will crush Russia’s economy, punishing Putin for the invasion and ultimately leading to its end.