01:28 - Source: CNN
Top House Republican: Why US should back Ukraine despite $4 gas prices
CNN  — 

A powerful, bipartisan group in Congress announced Monday that it would craft legislation suspending normal trade relations with Russia and Belarus, and grant the White House the authority to increase tariffs on the two countries, in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

In a significant statement, four top lawmakers – the Democratic and Republican leaders of the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee – said they would require the US trade representative to try to suspend Russia’s participation in the World Trade Organization and would provide President Joe Biden the power to restore trade relations subject to certain conditions and congressional disapproval.

They also said they had agreed to strike a deal banning the import of “energy products” from Russia. The letter was signed by Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Richard Neal, Texas GOP Rep. Kevin Brady, Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden and Republican Sen. Mike Crapo of Idaho.

“Taking these actions will send a clear message to Putin that his war is unacceptable and the United States stands firmly with our NATO allies,” wrote the four lawmakers. “While Congress needs to do more, as the congressional leaders with jurisdiction over our nation’s trade policy, we are committed to using the tools at our disposal to stop Russia’s unconscionable and unjust war on Ukraine and to hold Belarus accountable for its involvement.”

The statement is the latest bipartisan rebuke from the United States in reaction to the attack of Ukraine by Russia and Belarus. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Sunday that the US is evaluating whether to ban Russian oil imports. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday that Biden had not yet made a decision but had recently discussed the idea with European leaders in a conference call.

“We are now talking to our European partners and allies to look in a coordinated way at the prospect of banning the import of Russian oil while making sure that there is still an appropriate supply of oil on world markets,” Blinken said.

Last week, the White House asked Congress to approve $10 billion in lethal and humanitarian aid for Ukraine as part of a $32.5 billion emergency funding request sent to Capitol Hill. But on Monday, senators told CNN that they were eying an even higher number – $12 billion – and wanted to approve the aid to Ukraine by the end of the week.

This story has been updated with additional developments Monday.

CNN’s Kevin Liptak, Phil Mattingly and Betsy Klein contributed to this report.