Pelosi delivers floor speech on suspending normal trade relations with Russia and Belarus

Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks on the Floor of the House of Representatives in support of H.R. 7108, the Suspending Normal Trade Relations with Russia and Belarus Act.  Below are the Speaker’s remarks:

Speaker Pelosi.  Thank you, Madam Speaker.  I thank the gentleman for yielding, and I congratulate him on his leadership.

The connection between human rights and economics is a connection that many of us have seen for a while.  When it comes to some countries – for example, China.  When I was trying to get an adjustment in trade with China based on human rights, I was told – but I said then, and I will say now, Russia: if we do not speak out for human rights because of commercial interests, we lose all moral authority to speak out for human rights.  Any small country in the world, if these big countries are left off the hook.

Madam Speaker, as we convene today, war rages in Ukraine.  Yesterday, the Congress had the great honor and privilege of receiving a virtual address by President Zelenskyy, whose heroic leadership has rallied his nation and inspired the world.  Our Members were very moved by his powerful remarks as well as the heart-wrenching footage he shared showing the terror and brutality Putin has unleashed in Ukraine, including committing war crimes against children.

So it is with great respect for current – the President’s leadership, Zelenskyy’s leadership, and with an unwavering support for the people of Ukraine, that the House today takes another strong step to punish Russia for its war crimes.  It is my hope that this legislation receives strong bipartisan support, and I thank the Chairman, Mr. Neal and the Ranking Member, Mr. Brady, for working together to make that a reality.  Because it is a recognition that is worthy of the valor and courage of the people of Ukraine.

The unimaginable courage, resilience and determination that they have been – they have had on full display, as Ukrainians fight to not only protect their homeland, but to defend democracy itself.  The assault that Putin is making on Ukraine is an assault on democracy writ large.  He can’t stand – he’s so cowardly and insecure, he can’t stand to see a democracy across the way from Russia, for fear that the Russian people will see a better way instead of his autocracy.  And so the Ukrainians are fighting for democracy writ large.

Yet tragically Putin has repeatedly responded by accelerating brutality: indiscriminately bombing major cities, attacking civilians attempting to evacuate the violence and even murdering mothers and babies in a maternity hospital.

Russia’s cruel and unprovoked invasion has already forced nearly three million Ukrainians to flee their homes, creating what the United Nations has called the greatest – ‘the fastest growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War II.’

Because Putin shows no sign of ceasing his horrible aggression, the Congress today will take another step – in lockstep with many of our allies, as is the Biden Administration – to tighten our stranglehold on the Russian economy.

The legislation the House will pass today represents an intense action to further isolate Russia and decimate its economy.

Thank you, Mr. Brady, thank you, Mr. Neal, for giving us this opportunity.  With this bill, the United States will suspend permanent normal trade relations with Russia, which means they will never – they will no longer enjoy preferential tariff treatment; take steps to review Russia’s access to the World Trade Organization; and re-authorizes and strengthens the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act so that we can impose even further individual sanctions.

In doing so, we will make it difficult for – as difficult as possible for Russia to do business with the United States and our allies.  And we will also suspend normal trade relations with Belarus for its shameful complicity in Russia’s aggression.  Congress and the country salute the Ways and Means Chairman Richie Neal, Ranking Member Kevin Brady, who led the way to steer this legislation to the floor and garner strong, bipartisan support for its passage.

I also thank Congressman Lloyd Doggett and Congressman Earl Blumenauer for their relentless leadership in showing that the House was ready with this legislation so we could act quickly and decisively and have the finishing – not finishing touches, improving touches that Mr. Brady and Mr. Neal added to it.

The legislation we passed today builds on swift, devastating sanctions already being imposed on Russia by America and our allies.  We take this step with extraordinary unity, not only within Congress on a bipartisan, bicameral basis, but also between the Congress and the Administration.  And we do so with historic coordination with our neighbors abroad, as the members of the G7 and European Union have all agreed to revoke most-favored-nation status from Russia.

On behalf of the Congress, I salute President Biden for unifying our allies so that we could move together with this crushing blow.  And we will continue, and we’ll continue to put Putin – and make him accountable for his despicable crimes as he violates the territorial integrity of Ukraine.  What Putin is doing in Ukraine – bombing civilians, targeting children – is outside, Madam Speaker, it’s outside the circle of civilized human behavior.  He is committing war crimes, and he must be held accountable.

With that, again, I urge a strong bipartisan ‘aye’ vote, thank Mr. Neal and Mr. Brady, and yield back the balance of my time.

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