Rand Paul Forces a Sanctions Showdown

Good afternoon. It was a big week for those of us who’ve been longing to visit the U.S. Botanic Garden since it closed to the public two years ago—the garden will fully reopen on April 1.

Russia Trade Bill Held Up in Senate

Kentucky GOP Sen. Rand Paul is being Rand Paul again. At least, that’s what you may have read online yesterday, when it became clear he would be holding up the House-passed bill to strip Russia of its permanent normal trade status with the United States. And it’s true, to a large extent: He’s demanding changes to the underlying bill itself to move forward, rather than being placated by a vote on his amendment.

Under Senate rules, unless all senators agree to move ahead through an expedited process, it can take a decent chunk of time for various measures to come to a final vote. Paul frequently throws wrenches into situations like this, and his move this time means it could be more than a week before the bill, which would effectively hike tariffs on many Russian products, passes into law. But there’s an important timeline leading up to this standoff we shouldn’t miss—one that highlights the realities of legislating as lawmakers seek a quick response to Russia’s war on Ukraine. 

Not only did the White House and Democratic leaders scuttle a House vote on a more focused bill to end Russia’s normal trade treatment earlier this month, but the bill House leaders introduced once they had President Joe Biden’s approval also included new changes to presidential sanctions authorities, which is Paul’s hangup. Those changes opened the bill up to a delay like this one. We mentioned the sanctions powers debate in last Friday’s Uphill, and a few folks in the comments asked us to explain it in more detail. We hope you’ll bear with us here as we look at how this has unfolded over the past couple of weeks.

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