Lawmakers voted 424-8 to back the legislation which, if made law, will allow the Biden administration to impose new higher tariffs on products from Russia and Belarus until Jan. 1, 2024.
The legislation would also require the U.S. Trade Representative “to use the voice and influence of the United States to seek suspension of Russia’s participation in the World Trade Organization (WTO) and to halt Belarus’ WTO accession and accession-related work.”
It would also give Biden the authority to restore normal trade relations with both countries if they were to stop their actions in Ukraine and if a number of other conditions are met.
Republican lawmakers Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), Dan Bishop (N.C.-09.) Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), Matt Gaetz, (R-Fla.), Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) Glenn Grothman (Wis.-06.) Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) and Chip Roy (R-Texas) voted against the bill.
The bill was introduced by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard E. Neal (D-Mass.) and Ranking Member Kevin Brady (R-Texas) and now heads to the Senate, where it already has broad support.
Biden announced on March 11 that he will sign the bipartisan legislation to end normal trade relations with Russia, noting that the move was done in coordination with Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the European Union.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called the legislation “an intense action to further isolate Russia and decimate its economy” on the House floor on Thursday.
“The Congress today will take another step in lockstep with many of our allies, as is the Biden administration, to tighten our stranglehold on the Russian economy,” she said.
But GOP lawmaker Biggs said he voted against the bill because it gives the Biden administration increased authority and allows him to “define” what human-rights abuses are.
“It actually allows our president to go to almost anybody in the world, and if they have a visa, he can take away their visa,” Biggs said in a video explaining his vote.
“He can freeze their assets regardless of whether they have anything to do with Russia whatsoever. He gets to define what a human-rights abuse is. … It could be used even on people who are pro-life advocates elsewhere in the world if Biden thinks that pro-abortion is a human right,” he added.
Passage of the bill came just one day after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s virtual address to Congress, which was rife with high emotions and he urged the United States to provide further assistance to aid Ukraine as Russian forces continue to attack the country.
He also doubled down again on his request for the United States to implement a no-fly zone over Ukraine, something that the Biden administration has declined to do due to concerns that it may become embroiled directly in the war with Russia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned that he would view any country that declares a no-fly zone over Ukraine as a participant in the “armed conflict.”
“President Zelenskyy’s powerful remarks to Congress yesterday only strengthened our resolve to further isolate and weaken Putin. This legislation builds on last week’s energy import ban to inflict even greater economic pain on the Russian regime and its enablers,” Neal and Brady said in a statement on Thursday.
“We must do all we can to hold Putin accountable for senselessly attacking the Ukrainian people and undermining global stability,” they continued. “The suspension of normal trade relations is an essential part of our effort to restore peace, save lives, and defend democracy.”