Biden warms to a Russian oil ban. Congress might not give him a choice.
Inside the White House, there’s concern about the economic fallout. But momentum to shut off imports is building on Capitol Hill and within the administration.
President Joe Biden is racing to avoid a fight with Congress over banning Russian oil imports as he faces the increasing possibility that his own party will act if he doesn’t.
The White House’s posture in the week amounts to an about-face for an administration that just days ago feared an import ban would send gas prices skyrocketing. At the very least, officials were hopeful to enact a ban in lockstep with European allies. But they’re adjusting to what has become an awesome bipartisan interest on Capitol Hill — and within corners of the administration — in ridding American markets of Russian oil as Putin continues his bloody assault on Ukraine.
The administration’s newfound interest in an import ban is motivated partially by a desire to avoid a protracted debate over bipartisan oil-ban legislation that would include even more unwelcome provisions further tying the administration’s hands diplomatically. It also helps avoid the potential embarrassment of lawmakers appearing tougher on Putin than the president by forcing his hand and sending him a bill to sign.
Underscoring the urgency of the instant , Senate legislator Chuck Schumer said Monday that he had spoken with Biden administration officials about curbing Russian imports “and they’re looking closely at it.” He said the administration is functioning with European allies — several of whom have already said they oppose a ban — which he expects the general public to listen to from the White House relatively soon.
“I’d love for President Biden to try to to it on his own. i feel he’s watching it very seriously,” said Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), whose vote is critical to Biden’s success during a 50-50 Senate. “It must happen.”
For days, the White House resisted a proposed oil import ban for fear of jolting inflation further or, during a worst-case scenario, triggering a recession. Aides and allies still worry about the residual economic impact of a Russian oil ban, but they also view the policy as a justified punishment for Putin. Democratic leaders, meanwhile, have escalated their involves further action after spending the last fortnight largely deferring to Biden’s already-announced punishments targeting Moscow.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi has vowed to unveil legislation to ban Russian oil imports within the week — an endorsement that was viewed by many in the West Wing as a symbol of its inevitability, consistent with two administration officials not authorized to publicly discuss private conversations.
Congressional trade negotiators released a bipartisan framework later Monday that might stop trade relations with Russia and Belarus, a possible ingredient during a wider-ranging Russia sanctions bill.
The Senate’s No. 2 Democrat, Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, has already endorsed Manchin’s bipartisan bill banning Russian oil imports and said he wants it on the ground as soon as possible.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy “is risking his life for this cause,” Durbin said. “We got to stand by them and accept that it’d create some hardship” in gas prices. during a Zoom call with lawmakers on Saturday, Zelenskyy explicitly called on Western nations to ban Russian oil imports.
Nearly all Republicans agree on a ban, too. But they need also used the subject to criticize Biden for limiting domestic oil and gas production that they argue can fill the gap created by a Russian import ban.
Democrats fear that the political attacks will only escalate should a ban on Russian oil imports contribute to an extra rise in U.S. fuel prices. But the White House also didn’t want to be seen in any way as not fully punishing the Kremlin for its actions in Ukraine, consistent with officials. New sanctions on Russia’s oil and gas industry — its economic lifeblood and where Putin made his fortune — also are still into account .
Russian oil makes up a far bigger portion of the ecu market than the American one. The U.S. imported just 3 percent of its petroleum from Russia last year, consistent with the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers. Average weekly U.S. imports of Russian oil were zero during four out of the primary eight weeks of this year, consistent with the Energy Information Administration, with the very best weekly average imports reaching 138,000 barrels each day early last month.
But within the aftermath of the Ukraine invasion, an oil import ban rapidly became an emblem of anti-Russia hawkishness on Capitol Hill , where lawmakers have for many years left policy decision-making largely to the chief branch. All of the sanctions the Biden administration imposed on Russia since its invasion came without explicit backing from Congress, though lawmakers from both parties mostly supported the present sanctions regime.
The U.S. hoped to enter a joint Russian import ban with its European allies so as to reinforce the policy’s effectiveness. But the White House recognizes that it’s a difficult sell given how closely the allies believe Russian energy.
Biden addressed the likelihood Monday during a Ukraine-centered call with the leaders of France, Germany and therefore the uk , following abreast of conversations Secretary of State Antony Blinken had together with his counterparts over the weekend. No commitments were made by the Europeans.
“At the instant , Europe’s supply of energy for warmth generation, mobility, power supply and industry can’t be secured in the other way,” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said earlier Monday, adding that it had been a “conscious decision on our part to continue the activities of business enterprises within the area of energy supply with Russia.”
Now the Biden administration may impose its own import ban even without European allies, the 2 administration officials said.
Discussions began late last week between the White House and therefore the domestic oil and gas industry on the potential impact of the ban, including possible cost to consumers. The officials stressed that conversations about the ban are preliminary.
The legislative push is additionally an acknowledgment that while the sanctions imposed by the U.S. and European allies have crippled Russia’s economy, the punishments haven’t spurred a change in Putin’s behavior.
“It’s a sensible thing for the us to not be sending $40-50 million each day to fund the military in Moscow,” Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) said.
White House aides are heartened by polling that indicated that Biden received a bump publicly support after last week’s State of the Union, an increase they saw as fueled by rally-around-the-flag momentum for his leadership against Russia. Even so, they’re worried that an equivalent rising inflation an import ban could exacerbate may prove lethal to Democrats’ chances during this November’s midterms.