House approves ban on import of Russian oil

The House passed legislation Wednesday night banning U.S. imports of Russian oil and other energy sources, as lawmakers look to escalate U.S.-led sanctions on Vladimir Putin over his invasion of Ukraine.

House Democratic leaders decided to move forward with the vote even though President Joe Biden announced a Russian oil embargo on Tuesday. The Senate is not expected to consider the House-passed bill, with upper-chamber Democrats wary of tying Biden’s hands.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that regardless of Biden’s executive action, it was necessary for the House to take further steps against Russia as Putin escalates his brutal assault on Ukraine, targeting civilian areas including hospitals and residential neighborhoods.

“We’ve been talking about doing the Russian ban for a while. And we’re so pleased that the president has done that,” said Pelosi, who spoke by phone with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy for 45 minutes earlier Wednesday. “But you’re here in a legislature. This is a democratic process where people weigh the equities, express their views.”

The House overwhelmingly passed the Russian oil ban by a vote of 414-17.

Zelenskyy had been pushing Western nations to stop importing Russian oil — including during a Zoom call with U.S. lawmakers over the weekend in which the Ukrainian leader grew emotional speaking about Russia’s assaults on his country.

“Putin is using weapons prohibited in the Geneva Conventions, including cluster bombs and vacuum bombs, which cause severe suffering,” Pelosi said Wednesday.

Bipartisan pressure from Capitol Hill prompted the White House to reverse course on its initial reluctance to ban Russian oil. Until last week, congressional leaders were largely deferential to the sanctions Biden had already imposed, which have effectively crippled Russia’s economy.

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