- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 17, 2022

The Senate is forgoing legislation that would ban Russian energy imports, despite the measure clearing the House last week with overwhelming bipartisan approval.

President Biden already took executive action to sanction oil, natural gas and coal imports from Russia for its war against Ukraine and most senators of both parties see no need to codify it into law.

“I hope never, don’t need it,” Sen. Joe Manchin III, West Virginia Democrat, said of the prospect of voting on a ban. “The president has done exactly what needs to be done. Why people want to go down this road, I don’t know. It’s in effect, let the president do his job.”

On the other side of the Capitol, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi forged ahead with the sanctions bill last week after Mr. Biden imposed the ban.

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer gave no indication he plans to consider the bill, which was passed 414-17 in the Democratic-led House. Rather, the New York Democrat said the Senate would turn its attention toward a bipartisan proposal that overwhelmingly passed the House on Thursday to suspend normal trade relations with Russia.

A decision to skip a vote on the energy ban highlights the different political calculus at play in the two chambers, despite both being run by Democrats.

Senate Democrats figured it was a waste of precious floor time. House Democrats viewed the ban as unnecessary yet a symbolic political win to present to constituents in an election year. 

The push for a ban on importing Russian energy by Congress forced Mr. Biden to impose the sanctions. After that, lawmakers in both chambers questioned the need to move the legislation forward.

The House-passed energy ban would have gone slightly further than Mr. Biden’s executive order. It would have given Congress control over when and how the sanctions are lifted. Proponents also argued that Mr. Biden‘s executive action would be strengthened if it was codified in law, potentially helping stave off legal challenges.

• Ramsey Touchberry can be reached at rtouchberry@washingtontimes.com.

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