Democrats Push House Bill to Lock In Sanctions Against Russia

By Natalie Andrews Features Dow Jones Newswires

House Democrats are increasing pressure on Republicans to pass a bill punishing Russia for its alleged interference in the U.S. election by introducing their own sanctions bill matching one that the Senate already passed overwhelmingly.

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Democrats are set to introduce a bill that duplicates the text of a measure that passed with a bipartisan 98-2 vote in the Senate, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D., Md.) said Wednesday.

The Senate bill has stalled in the House of Representatives over procedural issues. The legislation would impose new sanctions and make it tougher for Mr. Trump to lift sanctions on Russia by inserting a congressional review provision to prevent unilateral action by the White House.

The Senate tried to resolve the procedural issue before the July 4 recess, but the fix it installed has drawn objections from some House Democrats, who say it strips power from the minority party in Congress.

The White House is lobbying against the Senate measure after objecting to the congressional oversight provision, which the administration says could hamstring diplomacy and intrudes on President Donald Trump's executive power. White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Mr. Trump supports the sanctions themselves.

"I don't believe that having the president's party in a position to protect him from any oversight is good policy for our country and, in fact, could be dangerous to our country," House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D., Md.) said Wednesday.

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Failure to move the bill forward could make it appear that Republicans aren't willing to punish Moscow for its interference in the election, as the U.S. intelligence community has found it did.

Republican reluctance could also become more politically risky since emails released by Donald Trump Jr. showed a Russian attorney wanting to discuss allegedly incriminating information about Hillary Clinton, as part of what he was told was a Russian government's effort to help his father's candidacy.

The younger Mr. Trump has said the Russian attorney didn't provide any valuable information for his father's campaign.

"I think the events of the last week only underscore the urgency of getting it passed," said Rep. Adam Schiff (R., Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee that is examining Russian meddling in the election. "I think we need to send a very clear message to Moscow that we are going to maintain these sanctions."

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) has said he is supportive of Russian sanctions but hasn't indicated how he will manage the Democratic-sponsored bill.

Democratic lawmakers haven't shared the text of their bill with Republican leadership, according to AshLee Strong, a spokeswoman for Mr. Ryan. She called the efforts "grandstanding and not a serious effort to resolve this issue and hold Russia accountable."

"This new package effectively means that the Senate would have to consider it all over again, further delaying passing a sanctions package, " she said.

If unchanged, the bill would require the president to seek Congress's permission to relax the present set of sanctions against Russia. Without the legislation, the executive branch can decide to reverse the sanctions on its own.

The oversight provision applies to existing sanctions the Obama administration imposed through executive order. Another portion of the bill would prohibit U.S. citizens and entities from exporting goods, nonfinancial services and technology in support of deep-water, Arctic offshore or shale-exploration projects involving Russian concerns. It also would tighten restrictions on the extension of credit to Russian entities.

Write to Natalie Andrews at Natalie.Andrews@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

July 12, 2017 18:19 ET (22:19 GMT)