Bipartisan pressure to ban Russian energy imports grows on Biden

Some Democrats are now joining Republicans and urging administration to block Russian oil

As President Biden and Europeans avoid removing Russian banks that deal in oil from the international SWIFT banking system, Republicans and Democrats in Congress are calling for an even more drastic move to ban Russian oil

Republicans have been making similar comments for weeks. But some Democrats are now urging the administration to consider that course of action too, as Russian President Vladimir Putin's brutal assault on Ukraine intensifies. 

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., Thursday said he has "many" co-sponsors from both parties on a bill he's introducing with Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, to ban Russian oil imports. He also upbraided administration officials for blocking increases in domestic energy production, including on natural gas in his state. 


"This bill will prohibit importation of Russian crude oil, petroleum, petroleum products, LNG and coal during this emergency," Manchin said. "I stood by the new administration when they called for a pause on the federal leasing programs last year. But the time for pausing has come and gone and despite a court ruling saying the same the administration continues to drag its feet when it comes to leasing on federal lands and in federal waters."

Sen Joe Manchin

Sen. Joe Manchin defends the Senate's 60-vote filibuster on Jan. 19, 2022. (Senate)

Manchin added: "Given Russia's invasion of Ukraine… this is in many ways an energy war and we need to treat it with that kind of gravity. We can't bring a knife to a gunfight. I tell you in my lifetime the only other time I've been more concerned … is as a teenager during the Cuban Missile Crisis."

The Biden administration has resisted calls both to increase domestic energy production and to block Russian oil. White House deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Wednesday, "Given high oil and gas prices, cutting – cutting off Russian oil/gas will drive prices up to Putin’s benefit."


President Biden said Wednesday that "all options are on the table" when it comes to a Russian oil ban.

President Biden waves as he and first lady Jill Biden board Air Force One, Wednesday, March 2, 2022, at Andrews Air Force Base, Md. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

President Biden waves as he and first lady Jill Biden board Air Force One, Wednesday, March 2, 2022, at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky / AP Newsroom)

Some progressive Democrats are even open to the idea. Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., told Fox News in a phone interview Thursday that the president should consider banning Russian oil. 

"I'm open to the SWIFT sanctions, I think they're necessary to de-SWIFT the Russian banks. And I'm open to banning Russian oil. I think the president really needs to look at that as a serious consideration," Khanna said. 

"The lesson from this should be what John McCain was trying to teach us a decade ago, which is that Russia is an oil and gas state," Khanna said. "That Europe and America should have never been as dependent on Russian oil and gas and it should make an investment in renewable energy, in nuclear, in batteries a national security imperative." 

Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., this week released his own bill to ban Russian oil imports. 

Sen Ed Markey

Sen. Ed Markey holds a news conference outside the Supreme Court to announce legislation to expand the number of seats on the high court, on Capitol Hill on April 15, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite / AP Newsroom)

"American fossil fuel companies helped fuel Putin’s despicable war on Ukraine to the tune of billions, propping up the oil-garchs and cronies that keep him in power," Markey said of the legislation. "There is no separating Russian oil from the corruption and human rights abuses of the Putin regime. We cannot criticize Europe for its reliance on Russian energy, as we pour dirty oil money into Russia."


A staunch environmentalist, Markey has a radically different solution to getting the U.S. off of Russian oil than Manchin and his fellow moderates. Rather that increasing domestic production, the Massachusetts senator wants to increase American use of other energy sources. 

"If we just deploy 15 million all-electric vehicles, we back out all the oil from Russia," Markey said on the Senate floor this week. He was objecting to a move from Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., to encourage domestic energy production. 

"The next 15 million backs out all of the Saudi oil. The next 15 million backs out all the oil from the Middle East," Markey said. "You want to do something? You want to terrify them? You want to destroy their business model in Russia or the Middle East? That's what you should be doing." 

Even without a U.S. ban, U.S. companies and traders are "not touching Russian barrels," one New York trader told Reuters. U.S. companies imported no crude oil from Russia last week, according to preliminary data released Wednesday by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Fox News' Kristina Biddle contributed to this report.