US Senate Repairs Russia, Iran Sanctions Bill

Bob Corker
Bob Corker

The US Senate on Thursday fixed a measure that would impose economic sanctions on Russia and Iran, yet a long-awaited House vote will not come until after Donald Trump meets for the first time as president with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin.

Senator Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of Foreign Relations Committee, said changes have been made to the legislation, a step the senate approved by voice vote and the next move is the house's to make, AP reported.

"We've done what we need to do," Corker said. "The ball's in their court."

The technical changes that had stalled the bill in the house came as Republicans dismissed Democratic complaints that the delay was at the behest of the Trump administration and intended to weaken the legislation.

Tempers flared among lawmakers over the lull, with each side blaming the other as lawmakers were poised to leave Washington for their weeklong July 4 recess.


The legislation cleared the senate two weeks ago with 98 votes, an overwhelming margin that suggested the bill would speed quickly through the house and to Trump's desk. But the measure hit headwinds almost immediately.

House Republican leaders said the bill ran afoul of a constitutional requirement that legislation involving revenue should start in the house.

Envoys from both chambers huddled behind closed doors to resolve the dispute as the recess loomed. The problems were technical not substantive, lawmakers insisted, yet Democrats accused Republicans of slow-walking the bill.

Speaking to reporters early Thursday, House Speaker Paul Ryan insisted the house was "protecting the constitution", not working behind the scenes on behalf of the White House.

"They wrote the bill incorrectly so we have told the senate you've got to write it correctly to follow the constitution," Ryan said.

The sanctions targeting Russia seek to punish Moscow for its alleged meddling in the 2016 US presidential election and for its actions in Ukraine and Syria, and the bans on Iran are over its ballistic missile program and its support for resistance groups in the Middle East.

"I want to put the House on notice," said senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, "If they water down the bill, weaken the sanctions, add loopholes to the legislation, they will find stiff resistance here in the senate."

Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called for House Republican leaders to pass the bill immediately, before Trump and Putin meet at an international summit in Germany next week.

  Silly Stance

But Corker denounced the stance the Democrats had taken as "silly" and "ridiculous". He said they were attempting to dictate how the house should act before the senate made the required technical repairs to 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. It imposes mandatory sanctions on people involved in Iran's ballistic missile program and anyone who does business with them. The measure would apply sanctions to Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps and enforce an arms embargo.


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