President Biden signs sanctions bills on Russia and Belarus

WASHINGTON – US President Joe Biden on Friday signed two sanctions bills on Russia and Belarus, the White House announced.

The sanctions mark the administration’s latest move to punish the two countries for Russia’s ongoing deadly invasion of Ukraine — and the first time the sanctions in response to the war have come from Capitol Hill.

One bill suspends normal trade relations with Russia and Belarus, punishing the countries by paving the way for higher tariffs on imports from them. The other prohibits energy imports from Russia, including oil, coal and natural gas.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki had made clear on Thursday that Biden would sign the bills, saying the sanctions were “something the President supports” and “had called for.”

The Senate unanimously passed the two measures Thursday morning. While the House voted overwhelmingly to pass the legislation, the bills faced more opposition there.

The House passed the trade relations provision 420-3 and the other in a 413-9 vote. Only three members — Republican Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, Thomas Massie of Kentucky and Matt Gaetz of Florida — opposed both bills.

While the House had already overwhelmingly passed similar bills, the Senate had been mired for weeks over the legislation. GOP Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky objected to proposed changes to the Global Magnitsky Act, fearing that the new language would give too much power to the executive branch to pursue those accused of human rights abuses.

Senators 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.

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