House passes Russia sanctions measure
‘Kremlin needs to be held accountable,’ Schumer urges
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.
Vladimir Putin is not America’s ally, Democrats say.