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US Lawmakers Reach Deal on Sanctions for Russia, Iran and North Korea

  • VOA News

FILE - President Donald Trump meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 Summit, July 7, 2017, in Hamburg, Germany.

U.S. lawmakers have reached an agreement that clears the way for a bill imposing new sanctions in Russia, Iran and North Korea to be sent to President Donald Trump for approval.

Sen. Bob Corker announced the deal in a statement late Wednesday, saying it came after discussions with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

Corker had earlier objected to including the North Korean sanctions, initially favoring to address that issue in a separate bill. But he dropped those objections and said the House of Representatives would work on enhancing the North Korea language.

FILE - Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., speaks to members of the media as he arrives for a luncheon with Vice President Mike Pence, on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 2, 2017. A package of new Russia sanctions is heading toward overwhelming approval by Congress.
FILE - Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., speaks to members of the media as he arrives for a luncheon with Vice President Mike Pence, on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 2, 2017. A package of new Russia sanctions is heading toward overwhelming approval by Congress.

The legislation also includes a provision giving Congress a fast-track procedure to disapprove of any moves the president makes to end the sanctions.

During weeks of negotiations, the Trump administration pushed back at what it saw as an attempt to limit the executive branch’s ability to unilaterally ease sanctions, making the case that it limits U.S. leverage in attempts to impact Russian behavior and build a better relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The White House has now expressed support.

“The president very much supports sanctions on those countries and wants to make sure that those remain, but at the same time wants to make sure that we get good deals. Those two things are both very important for the president,” White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters Monday.

The Senate nearly unanimously passed a sanctions bill for Russia and Iran in June, and the House passed the bill targeting all three countries Tuesday by a vote of 419-3. Those margins make it likely that if Trump were to veto the bill, Congress would have enough votes to override and make it law.

FILE - Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, left, and then-Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak, right, arrive at the State Department in Washington, July 17, 2017, for talks with Undersecretary of State Thomas Shannon.
FILE - Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, left, and then-Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak, right, arrive at the State Department in Washington, July 17, 2017, for talks with Undersecretary of State Thomas Shannon.

Russian objection

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Wednesday that Moscow would likely retaliate against the United States if the sanctions are imposed.

According to state-run Russian media, Ryabkov warned that the new sanctions will scuttle any chance of improved relations between Moscow and Washington. He also stated that Russia had previously warned the Trump administration it would mount a response if U.S. lawmakers passed the bill.

“These three regimes in different parts of the world are threatening vital U.S. interests and they are destabilizing their neighbors,” House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce, a Republican from California, said on the House floor Tuesday.

Royce said the bill ensures the tough economic and diplomatic sanctions stay in place by empowering Congress to review and to disapprove sanctions relief.

“If President Trump wants to play golf or do something with his crony Mr. Putin, he can count the Congress out because we’re going to punish Mr. Putin,” ranking House Foreign Affairs Democrat Rep. Eliot Engel told VOA shortly before the vote, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Bipartisan agreement

The bipartisan agreement on limits to Trump’s powers over sanctions comes amid congressional investigations into alleged links between the Trump campaign and Russia.

“This is a significant restraint on President Trump because no president wants to lose the leverage of being able to take off sanctions,” William Pomeranz, deputy director of the Wilson Center’s Kennan Institute, told VOA. “It’s very rare in fact for Congress to assert this right, to legislate sanctions law. But clearly, with a whole series of political ramifications, it has done so in this case.”

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