Congress poised to pass two bills targeting Russia

The Senate unanimously passed two bills on Thursday, the first to suspend normal trade relations with Russia and Belarus, punishing the countries for the invasion of Ukraine by paving the way for higher tariffs on imports from them. Biden called for the move in March and the House overwhelmingly passed its bill a week later. The Senate bill now goes to the House for final passage.

The Senate then unanimously passed a bill to prohibit energy imports from Russia, including oil, coal and natural gas.

The Senate had been mired for weeks over Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul’s objections to proposed changes to the Magnitsky Act, fearing that the new language would give too much power to the executive branch to pursue those accused of human rights abuses.

The Senate eventually gave in to Paul’s demands, retaining the more narrowly defined statute regarding human rights violations, but made the language permanent despite the wishes of some Republicans.

The trade relations bill is the latest effort by Congress to crack down on Russia and help Ukraine. Last night, the Senate passed a bill to more quickly provide military aid to Ukraine.

After the Senate approves the two Russia bills, the House is expected to pass the measures sometime Thursday and send them to President Joe Biden’s desk for signature, according to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer’s office.

While the House has already overwhelmingly approved both bills, the Senate spent weeks negotiating and made some changes, requiring final House approval.

The moves from Congress come a day after the administration announced sanctions on Russia’s largest financial institutions and number of individuals tied to the Kremlin, including Russian President Vladimir Putin’s two adult daughters, as it looks to increase economic pressure on Russia and Putin himself following horrific images from the Ukrainian city of Bucha.

The US also announced sanctions on the wife and daughter of Putin’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov. The United Kingdom later announced its own sanctions, and the European Union was expected to follow suit as well, ramping up Western pressure on Moscow as the war enters its second month.

This story has been updated with additional developments Thursday.

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