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U.S. Congress votes to strip Russia of ‘most favored’ trade status, ban its oil

U.S. Congress votes to strip Russia of 'most favored' trade status, ban its oil © Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A bird flies by the United States Capitol building in Washington, U.S., March 17, 2022.  REUTERS/Emily Elconin/File Photo

By Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. Congress voted to impose further economic pain on Russia over the invasion of Ukraine on Thursday, passing one measure to remove its “most favored nation” trade status and another to ban oil imports.

The Senate voted 100-0 in favor of the measure removing Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) status for both Russia and its close ally Belarus. Shortly afterward, it backed the energy measure, also by a 100-0 tally.

Senate approval sent the legislation to the House of Representatives, which quickly passed the trade measure by 420 to 3, and the energy legislation by 413 to 9.

President Joe Biden supports the measures and will sign them into law, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters.

The trade bill clears the way for Biden’s administration to raise tariffs on imports from Russia and Belarus. The energy measure puts into law Biden’s previous executive order banning imports of Russian oil, and coal.

“This package is about bringing every tool of economic pressure to bear on (Russian President) Vladimir Putin and his oligarch cronies. Putin’s Russia does not deserve to be a part of the economic order that has existed since the end of World War Two,” Senator Ron Wyden, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said in a statement.

The House passed both bills earlier this year, but they stalled in the Senate as Republicans and Democrats argued over when to vote on the energy measure and wording of a provision in the trade bill reauthorizing the Magnitsky Act, which allows sanctions over human rights violations.

U.S. law mandates that Congress must approve the change in Russia and Belarus’ trade status.

Under a compromise forged late on Wednesday senators agreed to consider both the trade measure and the energy bill. The House had to approve amendments to both measures because of technical changes made in the Senate.

Russia calls the assault on Ukraine a “special military operation.”

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