Lawmakers to vote on Russia sanctions over presidential election meddling

World Today

In this July 13, 2017 photo, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of N.Y. pauses during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. Congressional Democrats announced Saturday that a bipartisan group of House and Senate negotiators have reached an agreement on a sweeping Russia sanctions package to punish Moscow for meddling in the presidential election and its military aggression in Ukraine and Syria. Schumer called the sanctions legislation “strong” and he expected the legislation to be passed promptly. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Strong congressional support from Republicans and Democrats for a new package of Russia sanctions effectively scuttles the potential for President Donald Trump to derail the legislation.

The House is set to vote Tuesday on the penalties that aim to punish Moscow for its meddling in the presidential election and military aggression in Ukraine and Syria. The Senate is expected to act soon after that, which means the measure could be sent to Trump before the GOP-led Congress breaks for its August recess.

The bill also would hit Iran and The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) with fiscal and economic penalties. Both chambers are positioned to approve the legislation by veto-proof margins.

With those numbers looming, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has delivered slightly mixed messages. She indicated Sunday the president would sign the sanctions bill. But on Monday, Sanders said Trump is “going to study that legislation and see what the final product looks like.”

“The president very much supports sanctions on those countries but at the same time wants to be sure we get good deals,” she told reporters on Air Force One. “Those two things are very important.”

Signing a bill that sanctions Russia would mark a significant shift for Trump. He’s repeatedly cast doubt on the conclusion of U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia sought to tip the election in his favor. The president also has pushed for cooperation between Moscow and Washington on various matters, such as counterterrorism and the conflict in Syria, and more sanctions against Russia could imperil that effort.

Trump’s persistent overtures to Russia drove lawmakers to include a section that mandates a congressional review if Trump attempted to suspend or terminate the sanctions on Moscow. The White House had objected to the review requirement, arguing it would infringe on the president’s executive authority and tie his hands as he explores avenues of communication between the two former Cold War foes.

But the review section remained in the bill as a bipartisan team of House and Senate negotiators late last week resolved several lingering procedural and technical issues. Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the No. 2 House Democrat who’s been sharply critical of Trump’s stance on Russia, said he was satisfied the bill ensures his party’s ability to exercise rigorous oversight “over the administration’s implementation of sanctions.”

According to the bill, Trump is required to send Congress a report explaining why he wants to suspend or terminate a particular set of sanctions. Lawmakers would then have 30 days to decide whether to allow the move or reject it.

The legislation also hits Iran and DPRK with additional sanctions. A version of the bill that only addressed Russia and Iran cleared the Senate nearly six weeks ago with 98 votes.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., pushed to add the DPRK sanctions to the Senate-passed package. The House passed a separate bill in May by a 419-1 vote to hit Pyongyang with additional economic penalties, but the Senate had yet to take up the DPRK-only bill.

Story by The Associated Press