House Republicans Seek Fix for Russia-Iran Sanctions Bill

  • House suggests legislative language for Senate to pass
  • Senate panel spokeswoman says discussions are continuing

How Putin Became the Symbol of Russian Power

House Republicans say they have proposed a way for the Senate to resolve a procedural dispute over a bill to impose sanctions on Russia and Iran, allowing the House to take up the measure passed by the Senate.

The legislative language seeks to get around a concern raised by the House that the sanctions bill violates the origination clause of the Constitution, which requires legislation that raises revenue to start in the House. Democrats have accused House Republicans of using the constitutional objection as a delaying tactic.

House Speaker Paul Ryan said Thursday that he supports sanctions but the constitutional issue was important. “We take that very seriously,” Ryan told reporters. “We want to get this bill cleaned up.”

The House Ways and Means Committee sent the proposal on the sanctions bill, S. 722, to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “This enables the Senate to now simply process a request that the House return the papers to the Senate so that they can pass a fixed version," Emily Schillinger, a spokeswoman for Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady of Texas, said Thursday.

If the Senate fails to act on the matter, the House will let the Senate sanctions bill die, she said.

While President Donald Trump has said he hoped to improve relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin, that prospect has been undermined by the congressional and FBI investigations into Russia’s meddling in last year’s presidential campaign and whether anyone close to Trump colluded in it.

White House Stance

The Trump administration is “committed to existing sanctions” and won’t take a position on the legislation until the House acts, spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters at the White House after the Senate’s vote. Current sanctions are "the best tool for compelling Russia to fulfill its commitments" tied to its intervention in Ukraine, she said.

Still, the Treasury Department expanded its sanctions list this week, imposing restrictions on more Russian companies and individuals as well as separatists in rebel-held areas of eastern Ukraine.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in a phone call Thursday that the idea that sanctions will force Russia to change its policies is “illusory,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement on its website. It said the U.S. initiated the call.

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker of Tennessee, who backed the sanctions legislation, has said he thought lawmakers had addressed the origination clause issue before the Senate passed the measure. In a statement Thursday, a spokeswoman for the panel said discussions are continuing and the committee is confident it can resolve the concerns that have been raised.

When the Senate passed the measure on a vote of 98 to 2 on June 15, senators in both parties said they were responding to Russian aggression in Ukraine and its meddling in the U.S. campaign, as well as Iran’s 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 also would require the administration to explain any moves to ease or lift existing sanctions, and create a new mechanism for Congress to review and block any such effort.

— With assistance by Terrence Dopp, and Ksenia Galouchko

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