House passes sanctions bill curbing Trump’s power
Washington — Eager to punish Russia for meddling in the 2016 election, the House on Tuesday overwhelmingly backed a new package of sanctions against Moscow that prohibits President Donald Trump from waiving the penalties without first getting permission from Congress.
Lawmakers passed the legislation, 419-3, clearing the far-reaching measure for action by the Senate. If senators move quickly, the bill could be ready for Trump’s signature before Congress exits Washington for its regular August recess. The Senate, like the House, is expected to pass the legislation by a veto-proof margin. The bill also slaps Iran and North Korea with sanctions.
The 184-page measure serves as a rebuke of the Kremlin’s military aggression in Ukraine and Syria, where Russian President Vladimir Putin has backed President Bashar Assad. It aims to hit Putin and the oligarchs close to him by targeting Russian corruption, human rights abusers, and crucial sectors of the Russian economy, including weapons sales and energy exports.
“It is well past time that we forcibly respond,” said Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Trump hasn’t threatened to reject the bill even though Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and other senior administration officials had objected to a mandated congressional review should the president attempt to ease or lift the sanctions on Russia. They’ve argued it would infringe on the president’s executive authority and tie his hands as he explores avenues of communication and cooperation between the two former Cold War foes.
But Trump’s persistent overtures to Russia are what pushed lawmakers to include the sanctions review. Many lawmakers view Russia as the nation’s top strategic adversary and believe more sanctions, not less, put the U.S. in a position of strength in any negotiations with Moscow.
Trump’s “rhetoric toward the Russians has been far too accommodating and conciliatory, up to this point,” said Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa.
“Russian behavior has been atrocious,” Dent said. “They deserve these enhanced sanctions. Relations with Russia will improve when Russian behavior changes and they start to fall back into the family of nations.”
Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., said Congress “is uncomfortable with any rapprochement with Moscow without getting some things for it.” But he said the legislation isn’t intended to be a message to Trump.
“We’re sending a message to Moscow,” Kinzinger said. “But if the president had any intention of trying to give Vladimir Putin what he wants on certain areas, I think he’ll think twice about it.”
Heavy support for the bill from Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate has effectively scuttled the potential for Trump to derail the legislation. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders indicated Sunday the president would sign the sanctions bill. But on Monday, Sanders said Trump is “going to study that legislation and see what the final product looks like.”
Trump has repeatedly cast doubt on the conclusion of U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia sought to tip the election in his favor.