U.S. lawmakers stepped up calls Monday to ban the import of Russian oil, cutting off Russian President Vladimir Putin from a key source of revenue in retaliation for the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.
“How can we possibly be importing Russian oil and gas and giving the profits of those transactions to Vladimir Putin to pay for his war machine?” Democratic Senator Dick Durbin said on the Senate floor Monday.
Dubin introduced bipartisan legislation Thursday along with 11 other senators that would temporarily ban Russian oil imports along with suspending U.S.-Russia trade relations.
He said that if passed, the result of the legislation would be that “the world, including the United States, will likely pay more to fill our tanks at gas stations and heat our homes. We have to be ready for that reality. But that is the price today of defending freedom and democracy. The Ukrainians are paying with their lives; we may end up paying some more at the pump.”
In a Sunday “Dear Colleague” letter, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told lawmakers the House was at work on its own companion legislation banning imports.
With energy prices already rising in the United States due to the invasion, lawmakers face concerns that such a ban could put more pressure on Americans facing rising inflation.
“The United States need not choose between our democratic values and our economic interests. The administration and the Congress remain laser-focused on bringing down the higher energy costs for American families and our partners stemming from Putin’s invasion,” Pelosi said.
The bipartisan House legislation, co-sponsored by Democratic Representative Ro Khanna and Republican Representative Nancy Mace, would permanently ban Russian oil imports into the United States.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken is reportedly in talks with European allies to coordinate a ban on Russian oil and gas imports. Europe is even more dependent on Russian oil imports than the U.S. The White House said Monday there was an “active discussion” about the ban but that it could prove politically difficult for Biden domestically.
While there’s broad bipartisan support on Capitol Hill for the ban, some Republican senators have called for this opportunity to end American reliance on foreign oil and open up drilling in the United States to ease rising costs.
“Why would we be importing Russian oil, sending Russia $40-$50 million a day? That makes no sense. But choose our natural resources here in North America. We have the resources here. We should not be dependent on the Russian oil. We should not be sending them this blood money,” Republican Senator Rob Portman said on the Senate floor Monday.
Many Republicans have called on Biden to allow construction to resume on the Keystone XL Pipeline, the Canadian-U.S. oil pipeline system that was shut down over environmental concerns.
“We have the great fortune of living in a resource-rich country, and there's no reason why we should rely on anyone else, let alone a power-hungry dictator for basic energy needs. Putin's aggression has lit a fire under the U.S. and our allies. And we need to take concrete steps to end our reliance on foreign oil and continue our pursuit of energy independence at the same time, making sure that our friends and allies around the world have access to more than just one choice when it comes to their energy needs,” said Republican Senator John Cornyn, who represents Texas, a state that relies heavily on the energy industry.
The average cost of gas in the U.S. is over $4 per gallon, according to AAA, formerly the American Automobile Association.