House Passes Russia Sanctions Bill 07/26 06:07
Eager to punish Russia for meddling in the 2016 election, the House on
Tuesday overwhelmingly backed a new package of sanctions against Moscow that
prohibits President Donald Trump from waiving the penalties without first
getting permission from Congress.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Eager to punish Russia for meddling in the 2016 election,
the House on Tuesday overwhelmingly backed a new package of sanctions against
Moscow that prohibits President Donald Trump from waiving the penalties without
first getting permission from Congress.
Lawmakers passed the legislation, 419-3, clearing the far-reaching measure
for action by the Senate. If senators move quickly, the bill could be ready for
Trump's signature before Congress exits Washington for its regular August
recess. The Senate, like the House, is expected to pass the legislation by a
veto-proof margin. The bill also slaps Iran and North Korea with sanctions.
The 184-page measure serves as a rebuke of the Kremlin's military aggression
in Ukraine and Syria, where Russian President Vladimir Putin has backed
President Bashar Assad. It aims to hit Putin and the oligarchs close to him by
targeting Russian corruption, human rights abusers, and crucial sectors of the
Russian economy, including weapons sales and energy exports.
"It is well past time that we forcibly respond," said Rep. Ed Royce,
R-Calif., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Trump hasn't threatened to reject the bill even though Secretary of State
Rex Tillerson and other senior administration officials had objected to a
mandated congressional review should the president attempt to ease or lift the
sanctions on Russia. They've argued it would infringe on the president's
executive authority and tie his hands as he explores avenues of communication
and cooperation between the two former Cold War foes.
But Trump's persistent overtures to Russia are what pushed lawmakers to
include the sanctions review. Many lawmakers view Russia as the nation's top
strategic adversary and believe more sanctions, not less, put the U.S. in a
position of strength in any negotiations with Moscow.
Trump's "rhetoric toward the Russians has been far too accommodating and
conciliatory, up to this point," said Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa.
"Russian behavior has been atrocious," Dent said. "They deserve these
enhanced sanctions. Relations with Russia will improve when Russian behavior
changes and they start to fall back into the family of nations."
Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., said Congress "is uncomfortable with any
rapprochement with Moscow without getting some things for it." But he said the
legislation isn't intended to be a message to Trump.
"We're sending a message to Moscow," Kinzinger said. "But if the president
had any intention of trying to give Vladimir Putin what he wants on certain
areas, I think he'll think twice about it."
Heavy support for the bill from Republicans and Democrats in the House and
Senate has effectively scuttled the potential for Trump to derail the
legislation. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders indicated
Sunday the president would sign the sanctions bill. But on Monday, Sanders said
Trump is "going to study that legislation and see what the final product looks
Signing a bill that penalizes Russia's election interference would mark a
significant shift for Trump. He's repeatedly cast doubt on the conclusion of
U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia sought to tip the election in his favor.
He's blasted as a "witch hunt" investigations into the extent of Russia's
interference and whether the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow.
According to the bill, Trump is required to send Congress a report
explaining why he wants to suspend or terminate a particular set of the
sanctions on Russia. Lawmakers would then have 30 days to decide whether to
allow the move or reject it.
"There'll be no side deals or turning a blind eye to (Russia's) actions,"
said Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the No. 2 House Democrat.
The North Korea-related sanctions bar ships owned by the reclusive nation or
by countries that refuse to comply with U.N. resolutions against Pyongyang from
operating in American waters or docking at U.S. ports. Goods produced by North
Korea's forced labor would be prohibited from entering the United States.
The sanctions package also imposes mandatory penalties on people involved in
Iran's ballistic missile program and anyone who does business with them. The
measure would apply terrorism sanctions to the country's Revolutionary Guards
and enforce an arms embargo. Democrats said the new sanctions on Iran don't
conflict with the Iran nuclear deal
A version of the sanctions legislation that only addressed Russia and Iran
cleared the Senate nearly six weeks ago with 98 votes. Lawmakers have
questioned whether the bill may hit a hurdle in the Senate, which hasn't yet
fully considered the North Korea section of the bill. But Royce said he made
specific procedural tweaks to get the bill passed and to Trump before Congress
leaves town for a month.
"We cannot afford any more delay," he said.
The three House members who voted against the bill are Republican Reps.
Thomas Massie of Kentucky, Justin Amash of Michigan and John Duncan of