Capitol Hill
© Reuters
Capitol Hill
The Senate on Thursday unanimously passed a package to end normal trade relations with Russia and Belarus and codify the administration's ban on Russian oil imports, capping off weeks of negotiations that had stalled the legislation.

Senators voted 100-0 on two bills. The first ends permanent normal trade relations with Russia and Belarus. The bill also reauthorizes Magnitsky Act sanctions that target human rights violations and corruption with penalties like visa bans or asset freezes.

The second bill, which also passed 100-0, codifies the Biden administration's ban on Russian oil imports.

Because the Senate made changes to both bills, they need to be passed by the House before they go to President Biden's desk. The House is expected to pass the bills on Thursday, a day after the Senate announced on Wednesday night that it has reached a deal.

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said ahead of the votes:
"No nation whose military is committing war crimes deserves free-trade status with the United States. No vile thug like Putin deserves to stand as an equal with the leaders of the free world."
Senators were under pressure to reach an agreement before they leave town on Thursday for a two-week break and as Russia continues its weeks-long bloody invasion of Ukraine. That pressure only grew this week after photos emerged over the weekend of destruction in Bucha, a town northwest of Ukraine's capital, including images of people lying dead in the streets and in mass graves, triggering widespread condemnation.

Biden said that he believed Russia had committed war crimes, while Schumer went further, saying it was "genocide, and Mr. Putin is guilty of it."

The trade bill passed the House on March 17, while the bill to codify the Biden administration's oil ban passed on March 9.
Rand Paul
© Greg Nash/Getty Images
Senator Rand Paul generally opposed sanctions as a means of punishing a foreign nation
But they faced headwinds in the Senate, as negotiators faced several potential sticking points. The most high-profile hurdle was a days-long negotiation with Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) over reauthorizing the Magnitsky Act sanctions, which is riding on the trade bill. The House bill changed the Magnitsky Act language from targeting "gross" human rights violations to targeting "serious" human rights violations, codifying a Trump-era executive order.

Negotiators had appeared to cut a deal with Paul last week but indicated as recently as Tuesday that they were still haggling over the language. In the end, the Senate deal sticks with the original Magnitsky Act language currently in law, instead of updating it.

As part of a deal to get votes on the Russia package today, the Senate also passed bipartisan legislation on Wednesday night to establish a lend-lease program for Ukraine, making it easier to send military aid to the country.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) said about the bill:
"As the world bears witness to the most serious security threat to Europe and our global stability since World War II, this legislation to speed up the process of moving military equipment to the front lines couldn't be more urgent. I appreciate the bipartisan support to pass our legislation in the Senate and urge the House to swiftly follow suit. As this crisis rapidly escalates and Putin bears down on Ukraine, every minute counts."