Con­gress to dodge Trump veto

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD -

WASH­ING­TON: A weeks-long im­passe over im­pos­ing new fi­nan­cial sanc­tions on Iran and Rus­sia was bro­ken late on Fri­day, with the House pre­par­ing to vote this week on a bill that would pre­vent US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump from lift­ing mea­sures against Moscow.

House lead­ers agreed to vote on an ex­panded ver­sion of the bill af­ter adding sanc­tions aimed at freez­ing North Korea’s nu­clear pro­gramme and drain­ing the gov­ern­ment of rev­enue to fund it. The mea­sures against Py­ongyang, which passed the House 419 to 1 as a stand-alone bill in May, were in­serted at the re­quest of House Repub­li­can lead­ers.

Should the bill pass the House and Se­nate, it would pose a dif­fi­cult veto dilemma for Trump, whose pres­i­dency has been en­veloped in ques­tions about his ties to Rus­sia.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion has not is­sued a for­mal veto threat, but sev­eral of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son, have spo­ken out against it.

While some de­tails have yet to be fi­nalised, con­gres­sional aides said, the bill is set for a vote to­mor­row. The leg­is­la­tion will move un­der spe­cial, ex­pe­dited pro­ce­dures for non-con­tro­ver­sial bills ex­pected to pass with a two-thirds ma­jor­ity – enough sup­port to over­come a pres­i­den­tial veto.

The bill, how­ever, has hardly had a smooth ride.

An ini­tial Se­nate bill – which slapped new sanc­tions on Iran in re­sponse to its bal­lis­tic mis­sile test­ing, and on Rus­sia for its med­dling in the 2016 US pres­i­den­tial elec­tion – passed in June on a vote of 98 to 2. Crit­i­cally, the puni­tive mea­sures against Moscow could be lifted only with con­gres­sional ap­proval, a de­par­ture from the flex­i­bil­ity pres­i­dents are tra­di­tion­ally given to con­duct for­eign pol­icy.

But the bill hit an im­me­di­ate pro­ce­dural snag over claims that it ran afoul of the con­sti­tu­tional re­quire­ment that rev­enue bills orig­i­nate in the House.

The road­block came as Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials stepped up a cam­paign against the bill, prompt­ing Democrats to ac­cuse House GOP lead­ers of stalling on Trump’s be­half.

New ob­sta­cles emerged this month. House Democrats ob­jected to Se­nate changes to the bill that could freeze out the House mi­nor­ity’s abil­ity to block sanc­tions re­lief. And the oil-and-gas in­dus­try raised con­cerns that US com­pa­nies could be frozen out of projects with Rus­sian part­ners.

Last week, Repub­li­cans added a twist by propos­ing that the sanc­tions against North Korea, which the House had al­ready en­dorsed, be at­tached to the Se­nate bill. Democrats ac­cused them of try­ing to de­lay the leg­is­la­tion’s progress through Con­gress, and even Se­nate Repub­li­cans seemed sur­prised by, if still amenable to, the re­quest.

But ac­cord­ing to con­gres­sional aides, ne­go­ti­a­tions con­tin­ued be­hind the scenes this past week, with McCarthy and House Mi­nor­ity Whip Steny Hoyer work­ing to strike a com­pro­mise, along with the lead­ers of the Se­nate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee. Wash­ing­ton Post.

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