Congressional Republicans and Democrats announced Saturday that they had agreed to a package of sanctions meant to punish Russia for its actions during last year’s presidential campaign, as well as Moscow’s military adventures in Ukraine and Syria.
The bill also includes stiff economic penalties against Iran and North Korea. The sanctions targeting Russia, however, have drawn the most attention due to President Donald Trump’s persistent push for warmer relations with President Vladimir Putin and ongoing investigations into Russia’s interference in the 2016 campaign.
The White House had objected to a key section of the bill that would mandate a congressional review if Trump attempted to ease or end the sanctions against Moscow. But lawmakers from both parties opted to keep the sanctions review due to wariness over the relationship between Trump and Putin.
It was not immediately clear whether Trump would veto the bill, an action that would spark an outcry from both parties and risk a potential override.
“The legislation ensures that both the majority and minority are able to exercise our oversight role over the administration’s implementation of sanctions,” said Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., the No. 2 House Democrat.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., posted a legislative business schedule that shows the sanctions bill will be voted on Tuesday. McCarthy had pushed to add the North Korea sanctions to the package. The House had overwhelmingly passed legislation in May to hit Pyongyang with additional economic sanctions, but the Senate had yet to take up the bill.
The Senate last month passed sanctions legislation that targeted only Russia and Iran. Congressional aides said there may be resistance among Senate Republicans to adding the North Korea penalties, but it remained unclear whether those concerns would further stall the legislation. The aides were not authorized to speak publicly and requested anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.
“North Korea, Iran and Russia have in different ways all threatened their neighbors and actively sought to undermine American interests,” McCarthy and Rep. Ed Royce of California, the Republican chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a joint statement. “The bill the House will vote on next week will now exclusively focus on these nations and hold them accountable for their dangerous actions.”
The negotiators also addressed concerns voiced by American oil and natural gas companies that sanctions specific to Russia’s energy sector could backfire on them to Moscow’s benefit. The bill raises the threshold for when U.S. firms would be prohibited from being part of energy projects that also included Russian businesses.
Although there is widespread support for the legislation, the bill stalled after it cleared the Senate over constitutional questions and bickering over technical details. In particular, House Democrats charged that GOP leaders had cut them out of the congressional review, a complaint Republicans rejected.
The review requirement in the sanctions bill is styled after 2015 legislation pushed by Republicans and approved in the Senate that gave Congress a vote on whether then-President Barack Obama could lift sanctions against Iran.
That measure reflected Republican complaints that Obama had overstepped the power of the presidency and needed to be checked by Congress.
According to the bill, Trump is required to send Congress a report explaining why he wants to suspend or terminate a particular set of sanctions. Lawmakers would then have 30 days to decide whether to allow the move or reject it.
Top Capitol Hill Democrats joined Hoyer in offering qualified support for the measure.
Russias … behavior in our election and in Europe demands that we have strong, statutory sanctions enacted as soon as possible, said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. I am concerned by changes (to the Senate bill) insisted upon by Republicans that give the GOP leadership the sole power to originate actions in the House to prevent the Trump Administration from rolling back sanctions.”
The California Democrat suggested her party supports tougher sanctions on North Korea that the House has already passed, but that putting them in the large bill could result in procedural delays in the Senate.
Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Saturday that he would have preferred the House adopt the upper chambers bill but welcomed the effort.
A nearly united Congress is poised to send President Putin a clear message on behalf of the American people and our allies, and we need President Trump to help us deliver that message, Cardin said.
He also said proposed changes to the Senate bill have helped to clarify the intent of Members of Congress as well as express solidarity with our closest allies in countering Russian aggression and holding the Kremlin accountable for their destabilizing activities.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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