US Lawmakers Reach Accord on Russian Sanctions; Vote to Be Held Tuesday

A bipartisan group of U.S. congressional leaders have reached agreement on new sanctions for Russia, in response to its meddling in the 2016 presidential election, as well as a provision that would prevent President Donald Trump from trying to relax sanctions against Moscow.

The bill, Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act, was passed more than a month ago by the Senate and included new sanctions against Iran for its ballistic missile testing.

Once it moved to the House, the bill was stalled by procedural issues. The House also wanted to add stiffer economic sanctions against North Korea and its nuclear program.

On Saturday, bipartisan negotiators said they had reached an agreement that fixed lingering procedural issues, and added the sanctions against North Korea.

Vote set for Tuesday

The House is scheduled to vote Tuesday on a package that includes sanctions against Russia, Iran and North Korea. The legislation will be considered under an expedited process that requires a two-thirds majority for passage, meaning it will pass with a veto-proof majority.

Passage of the bill will most likely occur before Congress takes its August recess.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy released a statement Saturday that said, “The bill the House will vote on next week will now exclusively focus on these nations and hold them accountable for their dangerous actions.”

Congressman Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the No. 2 House Democrat, echoed the Republicans’ statement, saying, the bill “will hold Russia and Iran accountable for their destabilizing actions around the world.”

Pushback from Trump

With the sanctions legislation, Congress is seeking to punish Russia not only for its meddling last fall in the U.S. election, but also for its 2014 annexation of Crimea, a peninsula belonging to Ukraine.

The sanctions against Russia, however, have drawn pushback from the White House, which objects to a key section of the bill that would mandate a congressional review if Trump attempted to ease or end the sanctions against Moscow.

Wary lawmakers in both parties pushed for inclusion of that review requirement because of the president’s persistent push for warmer relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Putin has denied meddling in the U.S. election last year.

Under the proposed bill, Trump would be required to submit to Congress a report explaining his reasons for easing or ending sanctions, such as returning diplomatic properties in Maryland and New York that former President Barack Obama ordered vacated in December.

Congress would have at least 30 days to hold hearings and then vote to approve or reject Trump’s proposed changes.

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