Friday, 21 July, 2017

US House Speaker Wants 'Strong, Bold' Sanctions Bill Amid White House Opposition

Getty Images Getty Images
June Sullivan | 15 July, 2017, 00:49

"Our concern is that the legislation, we believe, sets an unusual precedent of delegating foreign policy to 535 members of Congress by not including certain national security waivers that have always been consistently part of sanctions bills in the past", White House legislative director Marc Short told reporters Monday.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy announced Friday that the House is looking to add North Korea provisions to a Russian Federation and Iran sanctions bill that is stuck in a procedural morass. "And the fix is fixed", Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said Monday.

"For the Republicans in the House of Representatives to be afraid and unwilling to allow even the minority leader to bring up a resolution of disapproval indicates to me that they are in a protective mode", Hoyer said Wednesday. "Every day that goes by around here, mischief can happen". McCarthy said CIA Director Mike Pompeo informed him that the Russian Federation sanctions package would affect the "ability to do his work and his job, a few elements of it".

McCarthy, R-Calif, did not tell what Pompeo was referring to.

"Instead of defending the integrity of American democracy, instead of holding the Trump White House accountable for its complicity, instead of showing Russian Federation that there will be consequences, the House Republican majority does nothing", Pelosi asserted.

Russia experts agree that further delay of the bill will be viewed positively by the Kremlin, especially following the friendly meeting Trump had with Russian President Vladimir Putin last week.

The House passed a standalone North Korea sanctions bill in May on a 419 - 1 vote, but the Senate has yet to take up the measure. And he said any White House would prefer to conduct foreign policy without Congress, but the administration had not asked him to kill the bill.

While the new bill is identical to what the Senate passed, it will be labeled as House legislation to avoid a procedural issue that prompted House Republican leaders to send the measure back to the Senate.

"The last thing we want to do is send a mixed message about how we feel about Russia", South Carolina GOP Senator Lindsey Graham said.

The Senate bill stalled shortly before the congressional recess when it hit a "blue slip" problem - the constitutional requirement that revenue matters commence in the House.

"Our legislation puts to rest all the technical questions and allows the House to finally vote on the same legislation that won overwhelming bipartisan support in the Senate", said Rep. Eliot Engel of NY, the top Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee. The bill has been mired in the House ever since.

AshLee Strong, a spokeswoman for Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan, dismissed the Democrats' action as "grandstanding". She called the efforts "grandstanding and not a serious effort to resolve this issue and hold Russian Federation accountable".

The bipartisan bill, which passed the Senate 98-2 a month ago, has been bogged down by partisan squabbling in the House.

Some Republicans have also echoed concerns raised by USA energy firms and European governments that the legislation could complicate investment in Russian energy projects, and potentially cost industry jobs. In trying to punish Moscow, the group said, the bill could instead penalize major American businesses, potentially costing billions of dollars in jobs and economic activity.

The Russia sanctions legislation was written as an amendment to a bill imposing new sanctions on Iran over issues including its ballistic missile program.

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