Biden administration officials privately told senior Democrats repeatedly in recent days that they planned to move forward with a ban on Russian oil imports. When they did not deliver, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) Decided to move forward on her own, according to people familiar with the matter.
Mrs. Pelosi griped about the issue during a Tuesday morning meeting with House Democrats, the people said. The speaker said she still plans to vote on a bill that she has had a key role in shaping to ban Russian oil imports, even after President Biden decided to move forward with a ban using his own executive authority.
In a letter to House Democrats announcing the move, she said the legislation would also review Russia’s access to the World Trade Organization and renew the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act so that the US can impose further sanctions on Russia.
A late-night vote on the legislation in the House appeared likely.
It is unclear whether the House bill would move forward in the Senate. Democratic senators pointed to the ban the White House announced on Tuesday, or said they would discuss it at their policy meetings on Wednesday.
“We first have to see what the House passes, and then we’ll discuss things with the administration and find the best way to make sure the oil import ban is tight and tough,” said Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., NY ).
The pending House vote follows an extraordinary few days in which senior Biden administration officials sought to persuade House Democrats to abandon or curtail plans to move forward with the bill, the people said. Some in the administration were worried that the legislation as written would weaken the president’s authority to lift sanctions on Russia, if needed, by requiring a vote in Congress to do so, one of the people said. Punchbowl News earlier reported that concern.
Others in the administration raised concerns to lawmakers and staff about trade-related provisions in the original version of the legislation, the people said, worrying that the measures were not in line with what European officials were pursuing. The Biden administration has sought to coordinate with Europe as it rolls out economic penalties on Russia.
Asked for a comment, a White House official said, “We support Congress using its authorities to hold Russia accountable and we are working with Congress on all of these efforts.” The official declined to comment on private conversations between the administration and Congress. The administration is keeping Congress apprised of its discussions with allies on a range of issues, the official added.
Senior Biden administration officials were initially reluctant to issue a ban on Russian oil imports, something the US has been discussing for months. But the bipartisan momentum in Congress, paired with pleas from Ukrainian officials as Russia continued its advance, persuaded the White House to take action.
Concerns about already-high gasoline prices were at the forefront of the administration’s internal deliberations in recent days, the people said. Mr. Biden and his senior advisers have for months been paying close attention to the effect that high prices are having on the president’s political standing heading into the midterms. Republicans have sought to blame Mr. Bid for record inflation.