House ap­proves Rus­sia sanc­tions

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NEWS - MIKE DEBONIS AND KAROUN DEMIRJIAN

WASH­ING­TON — The House on Tues­day voted over­whelm­ingly to ad­vance new fi­nan­cial sanc­tions against key U.S. ad­ver­saries and de­liver a for­eign-pol­icy brush­back to Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump by lim­it­ing his abil­ity to waive many of them.

In­cluded in the pack­age, which passed 419-3, are new mea­sures tar­get­ing key Rus­sian of­fi­cials in re­tal­i­a­tion for that coun­try’s al­leged in­ter­fer­ence in the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, as well as sanc­tions against Iran and North Korea in re­sponse to those na­tions’ weapons pro­grams.

Mem­bers of the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, in­clud­ing Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son, have re­sisted the con­gres­sional push — in par­tic­u­lar a pro­vi­sion at­tached to the Rus­sia mea­sures that would re­quire Congress to sign off on any move to re­lieve those sanc­tions.

The leg­is­la­tion was re­vised last week to ad­dress some of the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s con­cerns, in­clud­ing its po­ten­tial ef­fect on over­seas oil-and-gas projects that in­clude Rus­sian part­ners. But the bill that passed Tues­day re­tains the con­gres­sional re­view re­quire­ment.

“These three regimes in dif­fer­ent parts of the world are threat­en­ing vi­tal U.S. in­ter­ests, and they are desta­bi­liz­ing their neigh­bors,” House For­eign Af­fairs Com­mit­tee Chair­man Ed Royce, R-Calif., said Tues­day. “It is well past time that we force­fully re­spond.”

White House spokesman Sarah Huck­abee San­ders de­clined to say Mon­day whether Trump would sign or veto the bill, adding that the pres­i­dent “has been very vo­cal about his sup­port for con­tin­u­ing sanc­tions on those three coun­tries.” The ad­min­is­tra­tion did not is­sue a for­mal state­ment lay­ing out its po­si­tion.

“He has no in­ten­tion of get­ting rid of them, but he wants to make sure we get the best deal for the Amer­i­can peo­ple pos­si­ble,” San­ders said. “Congress does not have the best record on that. … He’s go­ing to study that leg­is­la­tion and see what the fi­nal product looks like.”

The House voted hours af­ter one of Trump’s clos­est ad­vis­ers, son- in- law Jared Kush­ner, vis­ited the House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee to talk about his con­ver­sa­tions with Rus­sians dur­ing Trump’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign and tran­si­tion. Also Tues­day, the Se­nate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee in­ter­viewed for­mer Trump cam­paign man­ager Paul Manafort, who had close ties with Ukraine’s for­mer Moscow-aligned gov­ern­ment.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion’s pos­ture to­ward Rus­sia has emerged as one of the few ar­eas where con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans have been will­ing to openly buck the White House’s wishes.

An ini­tial Se­nate bill tar­get­ing Iran and Rus­sia passed in June on a vote of 98-2, with only Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Bernie San­ders, I-Vt., op­posed.

That bill hit a 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 lob­by­ing cam­paign against it, prompt­ing Democrats to ac­cuse House GOP lead­ers of stalling on Trump’s be­half.

New ob­sta­cles emerged ear­lier this month. House Democrats ob­jected to Se­nate changes to the bill that could freeze out the House mi­nor­ity’s abil­ity to block sanc­tions re­lief. The en­ergy in­dus­try also raised con­cerns that U.S. com­pa­nies could be frozen out of projects with Rus­sian part­ners.

House lead­ers agreed last week to vote on an ex­panded ver­sion of the bill af­ter adding sanc­tions aimed at freez­ing North Korea’s nu­clear pro­gram and tar­get­ing banks that pro­vide rev­enue to its gov­ern­ment. The mea­sures against Py­ongyang, which passed in the House 419-1 as a stand­alone bill in May, were in­serted at the re­quest of House Repub­li­can lead­ers.

Democrats were more ag­gres­sive dur­ing floor de­bate Tues­day than Repub­li­cans in cast­ing the bill — and its con­gres­sional re­view re­quire­ment — as a re­buke of Trump’s for­eign pol­icy.

“This is crit­i­cal at a mo­ment when our al­lies are un­cer­tain about where this ad­min­is­tra­tion stands with re­spect to Rus­sian ag­gres­sion,” said House Mi­nor­ity Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., who bro­kered a deal on the bill with GOP House lead­ers. He said Congress could pur­sue ad­di­tional sanc­tions tar­get­ing the Rus­sian en­ergy in­dus­try if Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin and al­lies “fail to heed the mes­sage of this bill that their busi­ness as usual can­not and must not con­tinue.”

The House voted un­der spe­cial pro­ce­dures for non­con­tro­ver­sial bills ex­pected to pass with a two-thirds ma­jor­ity. The near-una­nim­ity means the House could over­ride a pres­i­den­tial veto.

“The bill we just passed with over­whelm­ing bi­par­ti­san sup­port is one of the most ex­pan­sive sanc­tions pack­ages in his­tory,” Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said in a state­ment af­ter the vote. “It tight­ens the screws on our most dan­ger­ous ad­ver­saries in or­der to keep Amer­i­cans safe.”

Arkansas’ four rep­re­sen­ta­tives, all Repub­li­cans, voted in fa­vor of the sanc­tions bill.

The Se­nate has not yet had the chance to vet the sanc­tions against Py­ongyang, but Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., chair­man of the Se­nate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee, told re­porters Mon­day that he ex­pects the House bill to pass in the Se­nate, with “mi­nor de­tails” about pro­ce­dure still to be worked out.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.