Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Russia-Iran Sanctions Bill Stalls in House After Senate Passage

  • Democrats accuse Republicans of helping Trump protect Russia
  • House leaders say bill needs to originate in their chamber

House Republican leaders said Tuesday that the Senate has to amend a Russia and Iran sanctions bill it passed overwhelmingly before the House can take it up, prompting Democrats to accuse the GOP of delaying tactics.

“House Republicans are considering using a procedural excuse to hide what they’re really doing: covering for a president who has been far too soft on Russia,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said in a statement. “The Senate passed this bill on a strong bipartisan vote of 98-2, sending a powerful message to President Trump that he should not lift sanctions on Russia.”

But House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady of Texas said that House leaders concluded, in consultation with the parliamentarian, that the legislation, S. 722, violated the origination clause of the Constitution, which required legislation that raises revenue to originate in the House.

"I strongly support sanctions against Iran and Russia to hold them accountable. We were willing to work with the Senate throughout the process, but the final bill and final language violated the origination clause in the Constitution," Brady told reporters on Tuesday.

He suggested that the Senate update the bill to ensure it has no revenue provisions, after which he said he’s "confident" the House can move it forward. "This isn’t a policy issue. It’s not a partisan issue. It is a constitutional issue that we’ll address in a positive way."

Brady, a Trump ally, brushed off accusations from Democrats that House Republicans were using the origination clause as an excuse to hold up the bill on behalf of the president.

"Revenue measures have to start in the House," he said. "The Senate can move pretty quickly to correct that provision and send it back to us. That’d be my preference."

But Democrats said that House leaders could easily circumvent the parliamentary obstacles they’ve cited.

"If Republican leadership says we can’t act on the Senate bill, here’s an easy solution: Let’s introduce an identical House version and we can vote on that instead," Representative Eliot Engel of New York, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement. 

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker of Tennessee, who backed the measure, said Tuesday that he thought they had addressed the origination clause issue before the Senate passed the measure, and that his staff is looking into it.

When the Senate passed the measure on June 15, senators in both parties said they were responding to Russia’s involvement in Ukraine and meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, and to Iran’s development of a ballistic missile program, support for terrorism and violations of human rights.

Under the legislation, new Russia sanctions could be levied on entities engaging in “malicious cyber activity." It would require the administration to explain any moves to ease or lift sanctions, and create a new mechanism for Congress to review and block any such effort.

The legislation would also put into law penalties that were imposed by the Obama administration on some Russian energy projects, a move in 2014 that came in response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine.

On Iran, the bill directs the president to impose sanctions on any entity that knowingly contributes to Iran’s ballistic missile program or other programs to develop vehicles to deliver weapons of mass destruction. Those who are sanctioned would have their assets within U.S. jurisdiction frozen and would be barred from entering the country.

The White House has said it is committed to existing sanctions and hasn’t taken a formal position on the Senate bill.

— With assistance by Erik Wasson, and Terrence Dopp

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