White House Pressures Congress to Soften Russia Sanctions Bill

Posted July 15, 2017

Marc Short, the White House legislative director, said Monday that the sanctions review section "sets an unusual precedent of delegating foreign policy to 535 members of Congress".

With the bill stalled, House Democrats looked to push past the procedural problem Wednesday by introducing an identical version of the Senate's bill.

Democrats say they're concerned the stalling tactics could allow the Trump administration to return two Russian compounds in NY and Maryland that the Obama administration seized in December.

The administration also has hope that, despite the opposition of House Speaker Paul Ryan to the changes the White House desires, there are other GOP congressmen who are more sympathetic, such as House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Sen. But the bill stalled in the House with Democrats and Republicans blaming each other for the delay.

Some law makers are certain that a stalled bill imposing new sanctions on Russian Federation will be passed soon.

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The Trump administration has pushed for changes to the Senate's Russian Federation sanctions bill, particularly over the provision that gives Congress veto power if the White House eases sanctions on Russian Federation.

Hoping to send a strong message to President Donald Trump, senior Democrats introduced an nearly identical sanctions bill that was passed 98-2 last June but has stalled since.

"There are some policy issues with respect to making sure that we don't actually inadvertently help Russian oligarchs and oil firms", Ryan said. Instead, according to a Washington Post report, they made clear that "any effort by the White House to challenge the Russians publicly an act of partisan politics".

"I think the events of the last week only underscore the urgency of getting it passed", said Rep. Adam Schiff (R., Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee that is examining Russian meddling in the election.

The American Petroleum Institute said late last week that the bill would expand a prohibition on US energy companies from being involved in oil projects located in Russia to projects around the world that include Russian energy firms. Corker said he thought there should be more congressional review of foreign policy.

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Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker said in a statement that he's open to the House adding North Korea sanctions.

A spokeswoman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., cast the current roadblock as the fault of Republicans. I have an idea: "pass the new sanctions law", tweeted Michael McFaul, a former USA ambassador to Russian Federation from 2012 to 2014.

Congress sought to craft the latest Russian Federation sanctions legislation (other provisions hit Iran) in a way that would both apply new sanctions and give Congress the ability to review any administration efforts to peel back sanctions unilaterally. However, there was no sign of support from Trump's fellow Republicans, who control majorities in both the House and the Senate and control what legislation comes up for a vote. In other words, no Democrat in the House could do so.

According to a GOP source who attended the weekly House Republican conference meeting, no one raised the issue of Trump Jr.'s emails or details about the meeting at Trump Tower with the Russian Federation representatives.

If Ryan rejects the compromise, Hoyer said that would tell him that House Republicans "are in a protective mode, not a mode of assuring, as the Senate did, that we have significant oversight".

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