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Pelosi: Congress to mull banning Russian oil imports over Ukraine war

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Pelosi: Congress to mull banning Russian oil imports over Ukraine war
Protesters show support for Ukraine as they hold a rally outside of the Russian Embassy in New York City on February 24. Some people, including Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, have called on the United States to ban the importation of Russian oil in response. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

March 7 (UPI) -- The U.S. House of Representatives is considering legislation to ban the importation of Russian oil, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said late Sunday, as the Biden administration seeks further punitive measures to stop the Kremlin's war against Ukraine.

The California Democratic told her colleagues in a letter that the House is "exploring" a bill that would ban the importation of oil and other Russian energy products into the United States.

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It would also take steps to deny Russia access to the World Trade Organization and repeal normal trade relations with Russia and Belarus, which has been aiding Moscow in its attack on Ukraine.

"The United States need not choose between our democratic values and our economic interests," she wrote. "The administration and the Congress remain laser-focused on bringing down the higher energy costs for American families and our partners stemming Putin's invasion."

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The announcement follows the administration of President Joe Biden directing Pelosi to put together a $10 billion humanitarian, security and economic assistance package for Ukraine and other Central European parties threatened by Russia's aggressive behavior in the region.

Pelosi said she intends for the emergency package to be enacted later this week as part of an omnibus government funding legislation.

"As President Biden has made crystal clear, American troops will not go to war in Ukraine -- but our nation can provide military equipment and support our allies who are supplying airplanes to Ukraine," she wrote. "We must also help the one and a half million Ukrainian refugees fleeing their homes and escaping to other nations."

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Washington and its democratic allies have imposed drastic and wide-ranging sanctions against Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine, which began about a week and a half ago following months of a military buildup on Ukraine's border.

But Russia's attacks against Ukraine appear unaffected by the punitive measures as it continues to shell and bomb civilian and military targets within populated cities.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has repeatedly called on democratic leaders to do more to prevent the downfall of not only Ukraine but potentially also Europe.

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Before Congress virtually on Saturday, Zelensky urged the U.S. lawmakers to stop buying Russia oil. Members who attended the bipartisan meeting paraphrased the president as having said that the ban would be one of the most powerful sanctions possible.

The United States imported 7.86 million barrels of petroleum per day in 2020, with Russia its third largest supplier, accounting for about 7% of all such imports, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, with Canada being by far the largest exporter at 52%.

Concerning crude oil, the United States imported 27.7 million barrels from Russia that year, representing a little more than 1% of all crude oil imports.

Amid the talk of a Russia oil import ban, the cost of crude oil surged to a 13-year-high of $130.50 a barrel.

Earlier on Sunday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told various news outlets that the Biden administration was looking to supply fighter jets to the embattled Ukrainians and was considering the oil ban.

The Biden administration, he said, has been in "very active discussions" with European allies about banning Russia oil and gas while bolstering its resource supply amid an energy crisis.

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"We are now talking to our European partners and allies to look in a coordinated way at the prospect of banning the import of Russian oil while making sure that there is still an appropriate supply of oil on world markets," he told Jake Tapper on CNN.

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif, said in an interview Sunday with CBS' Face the Nation that such a ban could be put in place by either the White House or Congress, but either way the measure has "very strong bipartisan support."

"It's anathema, I think, to many of us in Congress" to attempt to cripple Russia' economy with sanctions but then prop it up by purchasing oil and gas from the Kremlin, he said.

Schiff said knowing the effect the ban could have on global prices, Biden wanted to make such they fully understood the consequences of enforcing such a move first.

He was also was quick to tempter expectations, stating that Russia may find other buys for its oil and gas once the import ban was in place and that it may not have the impacted many think it may.

"It's why we have to continue to explore additional ways to really cruse the Russian economy," he said.

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