Congress approves broad Russia sanctions bill; White House likely to sign on

UPDATE 3 — 7/27, 1:24 p.m. EDT: Sen. Bob Corker said Wednesday night he has agreed to House-passed legislation sanctioning Russia, Iran and North Korea following Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) pledge to “expeditiously consider and pass enhancements” to the bill, which will include a provision to allow Congress to override the president from lifting economic penalties against Pyongyang.

 A Senate vote on the sanctions bill has not yet been scheduled, much to the chagrin of House Republicans.

“The House passed the Iran, Russia, North Korea sanctions package in a decisive bipartisan vote of 419 to 3, and we look forward to the Senate acting on it without delay,” said Speaker Paul Ryan’s spokewoman, AshLee Strong.

 

UPDATE 2 — 7/26, 6:51 p.m. EDT: Senate foreign relations committee chairman, Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) announced Wednesday that Congress’ upper chamber plans to strip North Korean penalties from the Russian sanctions bill and send it back to the House for re-approval.

Corker explained later in the day that the North Korean portion of the legislation hasn’t been reviewed yet by the Senate and members need more time to consider the entire bill.

 

UPDATE — 7/26, 8:54 a.m. EDT: The House of Representatives voted late Tuesday afternoon in favor of legislation limiting the White House’s ability to lift U.S. sanctions against Russia without the approval of Congress.

The bill, which also levels sanctions against North Korea and Iran, makes economic penalties against Russia more permanent for the Kremlin’s role in annexing Crimea and initiating a campaign to manipulate the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Passing by a count of 419–3, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders issued a statement after the vote saying President Trump would review both the House bill and the final version once it passes the Senate.

 

In an unsurprising move on Capitol Hill Saturday, congressional leaders announced a consensus had been reached late Friday on a broad sanctions package targeting Russia, North Korea, and Iran.

The approval of the motion is likely to set the stage for a showdown with the White House, which had previously expressed objections to a proviso requiring congressional approval prior to President Trump easing existing sanctions on the Russian Federation.

Under the terms of the bill, the White House would be required to inform Congress of any decision to lift sanctions or return two Russian diplomatic compounds ordered seized and closed by Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama.

Congress would have 30 days to review and approve or disallow any White House action taken.

Intending to punish Russia over alleged Kremlin-initiated interference in the 2016 presidential election, the bill aims to impact Russia’s energy sector.  The motion would curtail credit to Russian energy companies and limit partnerships between Russian and American firms.

Although Russia is the primary target of the sanctions bill, it does extend to Iran and North Korea, both of which have been described as rogue nations by the White House and Congress.

The bill forbids ships flying a North Korean flag or maritime vessels refusing to comply with UN sanctions against Pyongyang from entering U.S. waters or the use of U.S. ports.  Additionally, the bill prohibits goods manufactured by North Korea’s forced labor from entering U.S. markets.

As for Iran, the motion hits any Iranian involved with Tehran’s ballistic-missile program and those involved in business activity with them.  Similarly, the sanctions apply to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC); and the bill enforces an arms embargo placed on the IRGC.

Following the announcement lawmakers had reached an agreement on the bill, the White House indicated a willingness to sign the measure.

“We support where the legislation is now and will continue working with the House and Senate to put those tough sanctions in place on Russia until the situation in Ukraine is fully resolved and it certainly isn’t right now,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday.

Overseas, the EU is quietly protesting the potential for further American sanctions against Russia, as much of central and southern Europe rely on their eastern neighbor to supply them with natural gas. A proposed natural gas line from Russia across the Baltic Sea to Germany, for example, could be at risk if European countries are penalized for investing in the project.

“This goes beyond Nord Stream 2,” said EU spokesman Margaritis Schinas. “We have [an] indication that some of our concerns are being taken into account, but further work is necessary to fully address our comprehensive concerns.”

 

[AP] [Reuters] [CNN Money] [The Hill] [Politico] [Washington Post] [Photo courtesy AFP/Getty Images via Politico]