WASHINGTON – Speaker Paul Ryan is expressing support for a popular bill that would hit Iran and Russia with new sanctions amid Democratic criticism that House Republicans are stalling for time to weaken the penalties at the Trump administration's request.
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"We just want to get moving on it," the Wisconsin Republican told reporters on Thursday. "I support sanctions."
The sanctions measure was written by the Senate, where it passed last week on a 98-2 vote. But the passage ran afoul of a constitutional requirement that legislation involving revenue start in the House, known in bureaucratese as a "blue slip."
"We've got to honor the blue slip," Ryan said.
Congressional Democrats said they fear the House is seeking to water down the Russia-related portions of the bill for the Trump administration. The sanctions aimed at Russia are intended to punish Moscow for meddling in the presidential election and for its aggressive actions in Ukraine and Syria.
"House Republicans' effort to obstruct and weaken the Senate's bipartisan Russian sanctions bill is not only irresponsible; it endangers our national security and threatens our democracy," Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a statement.
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Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas, the Republican chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said his panel sent language to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee late Wednesday that he said would remedy the constitutionality issue in the bill. Brady said the proposed cure would allow the Senate to start a "very simple process to take the bill back, make the change, and then move it forward."
Brady said he's confident of a resolution if the Senate moves ahead with the fix.
Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, the Republican chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said Thursday "we're getting to a good place" on the sanctions bill.
In addition to hitting Russia and Iran with additional financial penalties, the bill would strengthen Congress' authority over Russia sanctions policy. The bill would require a 30-day congressional review period if Trump attempts to ease or end penalties against Moscow.
The Senate bill imposes mandatory sanctions on people involved in Iran's ballistic missile program and anyone who does business with them. The measure would apply terrorism sanctions to the country's Revolutionary Guards and enforce an arms embargo.
Contact Richard Lardner on Twitter: http://twitter.com/rplardner