The White House is stopping short of banning all imports of Russian oil over the invasion of Ukraine, despite growing bipartisan calls from lawmakers who say Russian President Vladimir Putin depends on the oil revenues to keep the attacks going.
Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, Thursday introduced legislation calling for a declaration of national emergency and to direct President Joe Biden to impose a ban on Russian oil imports, ABC News reported Friday.
Nine Republicans signed on as co-sponsors to Manchin's proposal, along with a wide slate of Democrats. The White House hasn't fully ruled out the possibility of banning oil imports from Russia, but press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday that Biden's objective has been to "maximize impact" on Putin and Russia while "minimizing impact" to the United States and its allies and partners.
But several Democrats are joining in the call from Republicans for the imports to stop, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, even though she said she does not support increased oil and gas drilling on federal land.
Biden, however, already has the authority to ban the oil imports, even without a directive from Congress.
Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., who is backing the Manchin-Murkowski bill, said that Putin has "weaponized energy" and he does not think the United States should import anything from Russia, let alone oil.
"The fact of the matter is energy is something Putin depends upon for his finances, and he is depending on it to fight this war in Ukraine," said Tester.
The White House's reluctance comes in part from not wanting to make a move that will drive gas prices higher, but Manchin said Thursday that is a sacrifice Americans should be willing to make to help Ukraine.
"You talk about an inconvenience, can you imagine if you lived in Ukraine right now?" the West Virginia senator said. "If there was a poll being taken and they said, 'Joe, would you pay 10 cents more a gallon to support the people of Ukraine and stop, basically, the support of Russia?' I would gladly pay 10 cents more a gallon."
Meanwhile, Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., has presented a separate bill that would ban Russian oil import and require a report that identifies entities that import the country's crude oil and petroleum products into the United States and to sanction them.
Energy experts say a ban of Russian crude oil exports to the United States alone would not have the same impact a European ban would bring.
According to U.S. government figures, in 2020, only 1% of Russia's total crude oil exports went to the United States, but almost half of its exports went to Europe.
Ben Cahill, an energy security expert for the Center for Strategic and International Studies, commented that there is already a "lot of self-sanctioning happening in the marketplace" with Russian oil, but that it would be "manageable" for the United States to switch suppliers.
About 7% to 10% of the United States crude oil and petroleum imports has come from Russia in recent years, but the country could replace that with imports from Mexico, Ecuador, Canada, and Colombia, Cahill added.
Manchin's bill, meanwhile, does not mention increasing domestic production, but many Republicans have been calling for a return to former President Donald Trump's energy policies, which led to a state of energy independence in recent years for the United States.
"The Keystone [XL] pipeline would have provided 800,000 barrels of crude oil a day," Rep. Matt Rosendale, R-Mont., told Newsmax Thursday, referring to the pipeline whose construction Biden stopped.
"About 150,000 barrels a day would have come from the Montana-North Dakota region, so it would have helped our economy and helped our security," Rosendale added. "It would have been a win all the way around… we could provide the oil and we could stop funding the Putin military operation and help our own economy as well."
Some Democrats, including Manchin, whose state has in recent years enjoyed an economic bounce from oil and gas drilling, agree.
"We must dramatically increase domestic production of energy to support the energy needs of American consumers without causing increased financial burden," Manchin said in a statement earlier this week.
Sandy Fitzgerald ✉
Sandy Fitzgerald has more than three decades in journalism and serves as a general assignment writer for Newsmax covering news, media, and politics.
© 2023 Newsmax. All rights reserved.