Trump dodges on Russian Federation sanctions

Randall Craig
July 15, 2017

Trump could still veto the sanctions bill if it passes in its current form, although the Senate at least would have more than enough votes to override it.

A key sticking point for Democrats is a proposed technical change to the bill made late last month by the Senate that Democratic aides said Monday would prevent rank-and-file House members from being able to challenge a president's decision to lift or ease the sanctions against Russian Federation.

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".

Stories about Trump's connections to Russian Federation have been swirling since a year ago, but the controversy has reached a fever pitch after The New York Times reported over the weekend that Trump's son Donald Trump, Jr. met with a Kremlin-connected lawyer who promised damaging information about former Secretary of State and Democratic nominee for president Hillary Clinton.

Ryan hinted that the sanction bill may not come to the floor without changes, due to "some policy issues with respect to making sure we don't actually inadvertently help Russian oligarchs and oil firms".

Opposition to the June sanctions bill was not restricted to Capitol Hill. However, it was sent back to the Senate last week after the House Parliamentarian objected because the bill ran afoul of the Origination Clause of the Constitution which requires the House to act before the Senate on any bill which raises revenue. Any attempts to alter the legislation would face stiff opposition from congressional Democrats and even a large number of Republicans due to their wariness over Trump's desire for better relations with Moscow. Democrats and some Republicans who backed the bill scoffed, saying the problem could have been quickly remedied. "We could have fixed it in five minutes", Senator Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters.


On July 10, a top White House official said the administration was seeking to change the bill so that it did not constrain the president's authority to impose or waive sanctions in the future.

But AshLee Strong, a spokeswoman for Ryan, criticized the move by House Democrats to introduce a new bill, telling CNN: "While they haven't shared the bill text with us, we assume it will not include the House procedure fix the Senate unanimously passed".

Officials from the Treasury and State departments met last week with House congressional staff to voice their concerns over the congressional review section of the bill. And he said any White House would prefer to conduct foreign policy without Congress, but the administration had not asked him to kill the bill. Adding North Korea to the Russian Federation and Iran sanctions measure would ensure speedier Senate consideration.

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.

"I think that the president has every right to call Congress back if necessary, because I think he'd made a very fair point that I believe that the Democratic obstruction is jeopardizing national security", Short said. She called the efforts "grandstanding and not a serious effort to resolve this issue and hold Russian Federation accountable".

"I think they'll pass a Russian Federation sanctions bill, and I think it'll look nearly identical to what they had", said Senate foreign relations committee Chairman Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican.

Other reports by Ligue1talk

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