House passes Rus­sia sanc­tions mea­sure

‘Krem­lin needs to be held ac­count­able,’ Schumer urges

USA TODAY US Edition - - NEWS - Oren Dorell @oren­dorell USA TO­DAY

The House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives over­whelm­ingly passed a bill Tues­day that would toughen sanc­tions on Rus­sia for its al­leged med­dling in the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion — and make it harder for a pres­i­dent to ease puni­tive mea­sures against Moscow.

The vote, 419-3, fol­lowed a bi­par­ti­san agree­ment reached over the week­end be­tween House and Se­nate ne­go­tia­tors.

The mea­sure heads to the Se­nate for a vote. The bill could be sent to Pres­i­dent Trump be­fore Congress be­gins its Au­gust re­cess.

The bill would pun­ish Rus­sia for med­dling in the U.S. pres­i­den­tial elec­tions and for its mil­i­tary ag­gres­sion in Ukraine and Syria. It also tar­gets Iran and North Korea for their il­licit bal­lis­tic mis­sile pro­grams and sup­port for ter­ror­ism.

Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., urged the Se­nate to quickly pass the mea­sure and send it to the pres­i­dent.

“Pass­ing the bill on a bi­par­ti­san ba­sis will send a strong sig­nal to the White House that the Krem­lin needs to be held ac­count­able for med­dling in last year’s elec­tion,” Schumer said.

Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., chair­man of the House For­eign Af­fairs Com­mit­tee, said the bill “em­pow­ers Congress to re­view and to dis­ap­prove of any sanc­tions re­lief.”

The bill would cod­ify sanc­tions im­posed by Pres­i­dent Obama over Rus­sia’s al­leged in­ter­fer­ence in the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion to aid Trump.

Trump has dis­puted the U.S. in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity’s con­clu­sion about Rus­sian med­dling, say­ing it’s not backed up by ev­i­dence.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion “has shown over and over that they’re will­ing to cozy up to (Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir) Putin,” said New York Rep. Eliot En­gel, the top Demo­crat on the House For­eign Af­fairs Com­mit­tee. “But here’s the truth: Rus­sia is not our ally. Putin wants to harm the United States, splin­ter our al­liances and un­der­mine West­ern democ­racy. This Congress will not al­low him to suc­ceed.”

The pro­posed sanc­tions have drawn con­dem­na­tion from U.S. al­lies in the Euro­pean Union, in­clud­ing Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel, and from Putin, who said the sanc­tions would be “harm­ful” to U.S.-Rus­sian ties.

Rus­sian Sen. Alek­sey Pushkov pre­dicted Tues­day that sanc­tions would cre­ate prob­lems with Europe and Rus­sia, not ease ten­sions with Trump’s do­mes­tic ri­vals.

“If Trump signs the sanc­tions bill, he will not calm down his en­e­mies — they de­sire his im­peach­ment,” Pushkov said, ac­cord­ing to the Rus­sian news site RT. “But he will in­flict dou­ble dam­age — to re­la­tions with Rus­sia and the Euro­pean Union at the same time.”

Rep. Tim Ryan, D- Ohio, said the bill might ruf­fle Euro­peans ini­tially, but it would help them in the long run by hurt­ing Rus­sia’s abil­ity to ex­ploit gas — its No. 1 ex­port, which it uses to ap­ply po­lit­i­cal pres­sure on its clients.

“I know Ger­many isn’t happy about it, but this is some­thing we have to do,” Ryan said.

ALEXEI NIKOLSKY, AP

Vladimir Putin is not Amer­ica’s ally, Democrats say.

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