Washington: The White House has indicated that Sunday President Donald Trump would sign a sweeping Russia sanctions measure, which the House could take up this week, that requires him to get Congress’ permission before lifting or easing the economic penalties against Moscow.
Lawmakers are scheduled to consider the sanctions package as early as tomorrow, and the bill could be sent to Trump before Congress breaks for the August recess.
The legislation is aimed at punishing Moscow for meddling in the presidential election and its military aggression in Ukraine and Syria.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the newly appointed White House press secretary, said the administration is supportive of being tough on Russia and “particularly putting these sanctions in place.”
“We support where the legislation is now, and will continue to work with the House and Senate to put those tough sanctions in place on Russia until the situation in Ukraine is fully resolved,” Sanders said on ABC’s “This Week.”
Congressional Republicans and Democrats announced on Saturday that they’d settled lingering issues with the bill, which also includes stiff economic penalties against Iran and North Korea. The sanctions targeting Russia, however, have drawn the most attention due to Trump’s persistent push for warmer relations with President Vladimir Putin and ongoing investigations into Russia’s interference in the 2016 campaign.
“North Korea, Iran and Russia have in different ways all threatened their neighbors and actively sought to undermine American interests,” according to a joint statement by California Republicans Kevin McCarthy, the House majority leader, and Ed Royce of California, the Foreign Affairs Committee chairman. The bill the House will vote, they said, “will now exclusively focus on these nations and hold them accountable for their dangerous actions.”
The White House had objected to a key section of the bill that would mandate a congressional review if Trump attempts to terminate the sanctions against Moscow.
Top administration officials said the provisions infringed on the president’s executive authority and tied his hands as he explores avenues of cooperation between the two former Cold War foes. But Sanders said the White House was able to work with the House and Senate to “make those changes that were necessary.”
She didn’t specify what those changes were, however. The congressional review section wasn’t altered substantially and Democrats were satisfied with the results.
Lawmakers included the review because of wariness in both parties over Trump’s affinity for Putin. Rep. Eliot Engel of New York, the top ranking Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee, said Trump has been unwilling to respond seriously to Russia’s belligerence, “leaving Congress with the urgent responsibility to hold Vladimir Putin accountable.”
McCarthy had pushed to add the North Korea sanctions to the package. The House had overwhelmingly passed legislation in May to hit Pyongyang with additional economic penalties, but the Senate had yet to take up the bill.
The Senate last month passed sanctions legislation that targeted only Russia and Iran. Congressional aides said Senate Republicans may resist adding the North Korea penalties, but it remained unclear whether those concerns would derail the legislation.
The aides were not authorised to speak publicly and requested anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.
Although the legislation has widespread support, the bill stalled after clearing the Senate more than five weeks ago due to constitutional questions and bickering over technical details.