Indy DC Download: House suspends normal trade status with Russia after Ukrainian president’s appeal

ByLance T. Lee

Mar 19, 2022

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The House revoked the favorable free trade status of Russia and Belarus after hearing an impassioned plea from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy for increased military aid in his country’s fight against Russian invasion.

Nevada lawmakers left Zelenskyy’s virtual address to Congress on Wednesday impressed with the Ukrainian president and eager to provide aid to the Ukrainian cause.

Zelenskyy “presents himself as the blue-collar, resilient leader,” Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV) said in an interview Friday. “His acting went off the charts after that speech.”

Amodei did not mince his words, claiming that Russia has committed war crimes. He also called the White House’s response reactive rather than proactive. Amodei said the US response could cause Ukrainians, who fought bravely, to question the US commitment to standing up against tyranny.

“What we are doing now and the speed at which we are doing it raises a ton of concern that the United States will turn its back on Russian war crimes and take over a neighboring country,” Amodei said.

He also said the administration and its allies should consider a limited no-fly zone over part of Ukraine. The White House has balked at declaring a no-fly zone over Ukraine, fearing it would pit American fighters directly against Russian planes and embroil the United States in a war with Russia .

“There are ways to adapt it,” Amodei said of no-fly zones to protect civilians or strategic areas. “Make something up because right now it’s just a blanket ‘no’.”

Following the speech, President Joe Biden announced that the United States would provide $800 million in military aid, including new drones and advanced anti-aircraft missiles.

In an interview Wednesday, Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) said the speech underscored her belief that the United States must continue to provide Ukraine with lethal and humanitarian aid.

“It’s just outrageous to see the devastation, the murder of innocent women and children, unprovoked by Ukraine,” Cortez Masto said. “I think it’s important that we do everything we can to support Zelenskyy.”

Cortez Masto was skeptical of establishing a no-fly zone over Ukraine, fearing it would drag the United States and its allies into a potentially more dangerous conflict with Russia.

She was open to supplying fighter jets to Ukraine, but echoed White House concerns about not doing so provocatively. Poland had offered to send Soviet-era MIG-29 jets to Ukraine, but wanted to send them to a US base in Germany first. The Pentagon declined the offer due to escalation issues.

Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Adam Smith (D-WA)) was also skeptical, saying MIGs are too old to help Ukraine against more advanced Russian weapons.

“I support the administration looking at how we do this transfer,” Cortez Masto said of the fighter jets.

Senator Jacky Rosen (D-NV), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, announced Thursday that she would travel to Poland and Germany over the weekend with nine other senators. The group will meet with military leaders to keep abreast of the war effort and determine what more can be done.

Along with his speech, Zelenskyy showed lawmakers a video of women, children and other civilians killed in the Russian attack.

Talk to MSNBC after the speech, Rosen said the footage of the devastation and carnage in Ukraine bore a striking resemblance to archival footage from World War II.

“It moved me to tears. I was speechless when I left the room,” Rosen said.

She called for the supply of fighter jets, the shutdown of US trade with Russia and the sanctioning of the Moscow Stock Exchange, which has remained closed since the invasion began about three weeks ago.

“There are things we can do in every way to isolate President Putin and show him the animal that he is,” Rosen said.

Trade Restrictions

The House approved legislation abolishing the permanent normal trade relations called PNTR of Russia and Belarus by an overwhelming majority of 424 votes to 8. All members of the Nevada House delegation voted for the measure.

The PNTR gives Russia and Belarus duty-free access to the US economy and vice versa. The bill would give Biden the power to raise tariffs on products from Russia and Belarus through January 2024.

The measure also gives Biden the power to restore normal trade relations with Russia and Belarus if the countries end their aggression and other specific conditions are met. Congress can override Biden’s decision through a congressional disapproval process.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said he expects the bill to pass with bipartisan support in the Senate when he speaks about it as early as next week .

Other measures could also be taken. Rep. Susie Lee (D-NV) called for legislation that would make it harder for Russia to sell its gold reserves. The bill, introduced in the House and Senate, would impose secondary sanctions on any U.S. entity that knowingly transacts or transports gold from Russian central bank holdings. It would also penalize US entities that sell gold physically or electronically in Russia.

Veterans Clinics

Cortez Masto, Rosen and Lee Friday criticized a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) report recommending the closure of clinics in Laughlin, Winnemucca and Susanville, California, near the Nevada border.

In letters to Biden, they quarreled that if new facilities are proposed for Sparks and Carson City, closing the Winnemucca Clinic would force veterans in that community to travel 150 miles for treatment. They said the closure of the Susanville facility, which serves only about 1,100 veterans in California and Nevada, would make it harder for those veterans to find care when there is already a shortage of rural doctors and nurses in Nevada.

They also called for a location for a new clinic in Laughlin. The VA proposed to build the replacement in Bullhead City, Arizona, across the Colorado River from Laughlin. The VA also said telehealth options remained for rural veterans, but senators said internet service was unreliable in rural areas.

“With that in mind, we urge you to closely examine the VA’s findings and not move forward with any closures that could prevent Nevada’s most vulnerable veterans from accessing health care and services. VA services they deserve,” the senators’ letter read.

Federal Court Candidates

Rosen gave a speech In the Senate on Thursday, calling for confirmation of Clark County District Court Judge Cristina Silva and UNLV law professor Anne Traum to join the U.S. District Court in Nevada.

Rosen praised their qualifications, noting that Silva oversaw all criminal investigations and prosecutions at the Nevada U.S. Attorney’s Office between 2011 and 2019, including assisting in the October 1, 2017 shooting investigation, and that Traum was a former federal public defender before entering academia.

The full Senate advanced both nominations on Wednesday. A final vote is expected next week.

Police funding

Cortez Masto introduced legislation with Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) to provide $250 million over the next five years to small law enforcement agencies — defined as those with fewer than 200 officers — across the country.

“More than 90 percent of all police departments nationwide have fewer than 200 full-time officers,” Cortez Masto said in a statement. “In Nevada and across the country, these smaller departments often struggle to compete with larger ones for access to critical resources.”

The introduction of the bill comes as the midterm elections begin to weigh heavily on Congress. The bill could be used to deflect Republican criticism that all Democrats support the “defund the police” mantra invoked by the party’s progressive wing.

Cortez Masto, who only won his seat by about 2 points in 2016, is a target for the GOP and his race is expected to be one of the most closely contested in the cycle.

For a full look at the measures delegates supported or opposed this week, see The Nevada IndependentCongressional vote tracking and other information below.

SEN. Catherine Cortez Masto

Legislation sponsored:

S.3860 – A bill to establish a grant program to provide assistance to local governments with fewer than 200 law enforcement officers, and for other purposes.

Co-sponsored legislation:

S.3867 – A bill to impose sanctions regarding the use of cryptocurrency to facilitate transactions by Russian persons subject to sanctions, and for other purposes.

S.3846 – A bill to reauthorize the Collaborative Justice and Mental Health Program, and for other purposes.

S.3839 – A bill to clarify that the Federal Trade Commission Act prohibits excessive and unjustified price increases in the sale of certain products and services when an emergency or disaster causes abnormal market disturbances, and for other purposes .

SEN. Jacky Rosen

Legislation sponsored:

S.3863 – A bill requiring the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to obtain an independent cybersecurity assessment of the Department of Veterans Affairs information systems, and for other purposes.

REPRESENTING. DINA TITUS

Co-sponsored legislation:

HR 7099 – To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to establish a windfall excise tax on crude oil and to refund the tax collected to individual taxpayers, and for other purposes.

REPRESENTING. STEVEN HORSFORD

Co-sponsored legislation:

HR 7099 – To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to establish a windfall excise tax on crude oil and to refund the tax collected to individual taxpayers, and for other purposes.



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