House passes Russia sanctions bill, setting up veto dilemma for Trump - The Washington Post


The House is set to vote Tuesday to advance new financial sanctions against key U.S. adversaries and deliver a foreign-policy brushback to President Trump by limiting his ability to waive many of them.

Included in the package are new measures targeting key Russian officials in retaliation for that country's alleged meddling in the 2016 presidential election, as well as sanctions against Iran and North Korea in response to those nations' weapons programs.

Members of the Trump administration, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, have resisted the congressional push - in particular a provision attached to the Russian and Iranian measures that would require Congress to sign off on any move to relieve those sanctions.

The bill was revised last week to address some administration concerns, including its potential effect on overseas oil-and-gas projects that include Russian partners. But the bill set for a vote Tuesday retains the congressional review provisions.

White House press secretary Sarah H. Sanders declined to say Monday whether Trump would sign or veto the bill, adding that the president "has been very vocal about his support for continuing sanctions on those three countries."

"He has no intention of getting rid of them, but he wants to make sure we get the best deal for the American people possible," she said. "Congress does not have the best record on that. . . . He's going to study that legislation and see what the final product looks like."

The House is set to vote Tuesday hours after one of Trump's closest advisers, son-in-law Jared Kushner, visited the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence to give testimony on possible Russian involvement in Trump's president campaign.

Kushner was interviewed Monday by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and issued a statement afterward denying wrongdoing. "I did not collude with Russia, nor do I know of anyone else in the campaign who did so," he said.

[Analysis: Jared Kushner's 'I did not collude' statement, parsed]

But the administration's posture toward Russia has emerged as one of the few areas where congressional Republicans have been willing to openly buck the White House's wishes.

An initial Senate bill targeting Iran and Russia passed in June on a vote of 98 to 2, with only Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) opposed.

That bill hit a procedural snag over claims that it ran afoul of the constitutional requirement that revenue bills originate in the House. The roadblock came as Trump administration officials stepped up a lobbying campaign against it, prompting Democrats to accuse House GOP leaders of stalling on Trump's behalf.

New obstacles emerged earlier this month. House Democrats objected to Senate changes to the bill that could freeze out the House minority's ability to block sanctions relief. And the energy industry raised concerns that U.S. companies could be frozen out of projects with Russian partners.

House leaders agreed to vote on an expanded version of the bill last week after adding sanctions aimed at freezing North Korea's nuclear program and targeting banks that provide revenue to its government.The measures against Pyongyang, which passed the House 419 to 1 as a stand-alone bill in May, were inserted at the request of House Republican leaders.

The House will vote under special procedures for noncontroversial bills expected to pass with a two-thirds majority - enough support to overcome a presidential veto.

The Senate has not yet had the chance to vet the sanctions against Pyongyang, but Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters Monday that he expects the House bill to pass the Senate, with "minor details" about procedure still to be worked out.

Corker said he was exploring ways to ensure the bill would become law before the end of the week, when House members are set to leave Washington for a five-week recess. "We'd like to get this thing passed and into law," he said.

The version of the bill released by the House Friday addresses concerns about in which chamber the bill would originate, removes the provision that blacklists energy companies from entering into oil development projects if any Russian firm is involved, and delays defense and intelligence sector sanctions while asking the administration to clarify which Russian entities would fall within those sectors.

The bill also protects a 30-day window for Congress to take steps to block the president if he tries to roll back any sanctions imposed against Russia - signaling that lawmakers were unmoved by the Trump administration's lobbying effort to get them to scale back the congressional review power in the bill.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) issued a statement Saturday praising the bill and calling for swift passage.

"Given the many transgressions of Russia, and President Trump's seeming inability to deal with them, a strong sanctions bill such as the one Democrats and Republicans have just agreed to is essential," he said.

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