Saturday, July 22, 2017

POLITICS_ GOP-led House to combine Russia, Iran, N Korea sanctions into one bill



GOP-led House to combine Russia, Iran, N Korea sanctions into one bill

Published July 22, 2017 Fox News

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The House appears set next week to combine sanctions on Russia, Iran and North Korea, after negotiators compromised on a similar bill passed in the Senate.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., on Saturday released a schedule of the chamber’s legislative agenda for next week that shows the sanctions will be rolled into one “Russia, Iran, and North Korea Sanctions Act.”

The GOP-led Senate overwhelmingly approved its bill on Russia sanctions in the aftermath of the U.S. intelligence community largely agreeing the Kremlin meddled in the 2016 White House race, in which Republican Donald Trump upset Democrat Hillary Clinton.

McCarthy’s announcement followed a bipartisan group of House and Senate negotiators earlier in the day reaching an agreement on the sweeping package of Russia sanctions, also to punish Moscow for its military aggression in Ukraine and Syria.

Maryland Rep. Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 House Democrat, said the negotiators had settled lingering issues with the bill, particularly the inclusion of a congressional review triggered if President Trump vetoes the measure or proposed to terminate or suspend the Russia sanctions.

Whether the president would veto such legislation remains unclear, considering his apparent admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

If Trump were to veto the bill, he risks sparking an outcry from Republicans and Democrats and having his decision overturned.

The precise mechanics of how involved House Democrats would be in the congressional review process had been a key sticking point, but Hoyer said he was pleased with the outcome.

The negotiators also addressed concerns voiced by American oil and natural gas companies that sanctions specific to Russia's energy sector could backfire on them to Moscow's benefit. The bill raises the threshold for when U.S. firms would be prohibited from being part of energy projects that also included Russian businesses.

Although there is widespread support for the legislation, the bill stalled after it cleared the Senate over constitutional questions and bickering over technical details. In particular, House Democrats charged that GOP leaders had cut them out of the congressional review, a complaint Republicans rejected.

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 sanctions, but the Senate had yet to take up the bill.

The Senate bill passed last month and targeted only Russia and Iran.

Congressional aides said there may be resistance among Senate Republicans to adding the North Korea penalties, but it remained unclear whether those concerns would further stall the legislation. The aides were not authorized to speak publicly and requested anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

The review requirement in the sanctions bill is styled after 2015 legislation pushed by Republicans and approved in the Senate that gave Congress a vote on whether then-President Barack Obama could lift sanctions against Iran.

That measure reflected Republican complaints that Obama had overstepped the power of the presidency and needed to be checked by Congress.

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 House effort to combine the sanctions will occur Tuesday in the chamber’s Foreign Affairs Committee.

Congressional Republicans appear quiet about the McCarthy announcement, while top Capitol Hill Democrats, in addition to Hoyer, have offered qualified support.

“Russia’s ... behavior in our election and in Europe demands that we have strong, statutory sanctions enacted as soon as possible,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. “I am concerned by changes (to the Senate bill) insisted upon by Republicans that give the GOP leadership the sole power to originate actions in the House to prevent the Trump Administration from rolling back sanctions."

The California Democrat suggested her party supports tougher sanctions on North Korea that the House has already passed, but that putting them in the large bill could result in procedural delays in the Senate.

Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Saturday that he would have preferred the House adopt the upper chamber’s bill but welcomed the effort.

“A nearly united Congress is poised to send President Putin a clear message on behalf of the American people and our allies, and we need President Trump to help us deliver that message,” Cardin said.

He also said proposed changes to the Senate bill have “helped to clarify the intent of Members of Congress as well as express solidarity with our closest allies in countering Russian aggression and holding the Kremlin accountable for their destabilizing activities.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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