White House criticizes Russian Federation sanctions stalled in House

Posted July 15, 2017

House Democrats have not decided yet whether to file their own version of an Iran-Russia sanctions bill, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee told THE WEEKLY STANDARD Wednesday afternoon.

Democrats have accused Republicans of dragging their feet on the bill, which passed the Senate last month but needs to be approved by the House of Representatives and signed by President Donald Trump to become law.

The previous bill called for imposing "sanctions with respect to Iran in relation to Iran's ballistic missile programme, support for acts of global terrorism, and violations of human rights, and for other purposes".

Ongoing revelations about Trump's relations with Russian Federation is said to be the reason for moving the bill forward.

Hoping to send a message to President Donald Trump to maintain a strong line against Moscow, the Senate passed the sanctions on Russian Federation, part of a broader measure also imposing new sanctions on Iran, by 98-2 on June 15.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Friday he believed the North Korean sanctions bill, which passed almost unanimously in the House in May, should be added to the Russian Federation sanctions measure that passed the Senate one month ago. For complete details on the extensive new Russian Federation restrictions contained in the bill, please see Crowell & Moring's June 19 Client Alert.

They have also raised concerns about changes made in the Senate.

Russia experts agree that further delay of the bill will be viewed positively by the Kremlin, especially following the friendly meeting Trump had with Russian President Vladimir Putin last week.

The bill came about after intense negotiations between House and Senate leaders where Republicans and Democrats from both sides of the Capitol were supposed to be keeping each other in the loop. The bill has been mired in the House ever since. House Republican leaders said the bill ran afoul of a constitutional requirement that legislation involving revenue start in the House.

Now that members have reviewed the language more closely, House GOP and Democratic leaders are hoping to iron out the issues without re-opening the bill for a major rewrite.

The Senate's majority vote on the bill received an angry response from some European capitals.

"I don't believe that having the president's party in a position to protect him from any oversight is good policy for our country, and in fact it'd be unsafe for our country", Representative Steny Hoyer of Maryland said.

On Friday, Corker said he would be "more than glad" to consider adding North Korea to the legislation if the House chose to do so. Seeking to force Republican House leaders to allow a vote, Democrats on the House Foreign Affairs Committee introduced legislation unchanged from what passed the Senate by 98-2 on June 15 but has been stalled ever since.

AshLee Strong, a spokeswoman for Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan, dismissed the Democrats' action as "grandstanding". It also rests on a dispute over just how the act would get triggered to block Donald Trump from easing sanctions through his executive authority. "The issue is, are they going to act on Russian Federation sanctions, period".

"It's an idea, and obviously I don't find it unappetizing", Royce said.

The House passed a new package of sanctions on North Korea in May by 419-1, and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, a Republican, said on Thursday his committee would be taking it up soon.