Frustration grows over stalled Russia sanctions bill
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Lawmakers are growing increasingly frustrated with a series of procedural spats that are stalling new Russia sanctions in the House amid mounting concerns about Moscow’s election meddling.

Senators thought they removed any roadblock to tougher financial penalties when they passed a technical fix late last month. Instead, the bill remains stuck in limbo.

“This is all doing nothing but helping Russia,” Sen. Bob CorkerBob CorkerRepublicans get agreement on Russia, North Korea sanctions Senate rejects ObamaCare repeal, replacement amendment Senate votes to begin ObamaCare repeal debate MORE (R-Tenn.) told reporters on Wednesday. “Every day that goes by ... mischief can happen, and I think we really could have passed it the week before the [July Fourth] recess.”

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The latest holdup is House Democrats’ objection to a provision included in the Senate’s changes that would limit the minority’s ability to force a floor vote on a resolution of disapproval if the Trump administration were to lift sanctions on Russia.

The language, which was requested by House GOP leadership, would allow only the majority party in the chamber to bring up a resolution of disapproval. Democrats say this would be a way for House Republicans to offer cover to Trump.

The back-and-forth has frustrated their counterparts in the Senate, who argue the objection could easily be resolved.

The top two members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — Corker and Sen. Ben CardinBen CardinRepublicans get agreement on Russia, North Korea sanctions Congress can send a powerful message by passing the Israel Anti-Boycott Act GOP senator: It is in Trump's 'best interest' to sign Russia sanctions bill MORE (D-Md.) — stressed that the House could easily fix the latest snag and pass the Russia sanctions bill — if it
wanted to.

It’s not “rocket science to do congressional review,” Cardin said, declining to specifically place the blame with House Republicans.

“Fix it,” he continued. “This is a smokescreen to a bill that needs to get done now. This issue is
easy to fix.”

“I hope that pressure will build soon. Actually Speaker [Paul] Ryan and [House Minority Leader Nancy] Pelosi could easily resolve the minority issue, too, if they choose,” Corker added.

The Tennessee Republican, who guided the sanctions bill through the Senate, noted he spoke with Pelosi this week about the holdup and said he thinks Democrats are still trying to work out how to resolve their
concerns. 

There are signs that lawmakers feel pressure to take a firmer stance against Moscow, despite the Trump administration’s warning that the legislation would limit the president.

Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, is offering his own Russia sanctions if the House doesn’t move forward soon with the Senate-passed bill, according to a source familiar with his thinking.

House Democrats also tried to shake loose the Senate bill on Wednesday and force Republicans to take up the legislation.

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said he’s offered two suggestions to Ryan about a path forward, including allowing the majority leader or minority leader to bring up a vote.

Hoyer, along with Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Rep. Eliot Engel (N.Y.), the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, also introduced a House version on Wednesday of the original Senate-passed bill without the problematic provision.

He’s also introducing the original Senate-passed bill, which didn’t include the provision being objected to by House Democrats.

“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, it’d be dangerous to our country,” Hoyer told reporters on Wednesday.

But a spokeswoman for Ryan dismissed Hoyer’s proposal as “grandstanding” and said the impasse would be resolved faster if Democrats would simply sign onto what the Senate already passed by unanimous consent.

“This is 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,” Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong said.

The roadblock comes after the Senate bill was already held up for weeks after Rep. Kevin BradyKevin BradyCBO survives two House amendments targeting funding White House, GOP close to releasing joint tax-reform principles Mnuchin meets with agriculture groups on tax reform MORE (R-Texas) said that according to the House parliamentarian, the legislation violated a requirement that revenue bills start in the House.

That drew heavy skepticism from Democrats, who warned that Republicans were trying to delay the bill amid pushback from the Trump administration.

“I think President Trump and his administration are happy about this, and I think there are some that are part of that,” Cardin said
Wednesday.

Corker also mocked the delay, which he said could have been resolved “in 5 minutes.”

“Dilly dallying around about the blue slip issue was just a ridiculous waste of time,” he said.

Beyond the procedural problems, House GOP aides noted that some lawmakers on their side are also concerned about the impact of sanctions on energy companies seeking to expand global business projects.

Ryan said Wednesday that the House wants to move the sanctions bill, though “there are some policy issues with respect to making sure that we don’t actually inadvertently help Russian oligarchs and oil firms.”

Any effort to amend the bill to accommodate GOP lawmakers’ concerns about the energy sector would be addressed after the House approves the Senate-passed changes.

The latest impasse over the bipartisan sanctions bill comes as Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election dominates headlines.

Trump met with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday and drew criticism from both parties for proposing the U.S. and Russia work together on a cybersecurity unit. Trump backed off from the idea after Republicans and Democrats pilloried the plan on the Sunday
political shows.

This week, Trump’s eldest son Donald TrumpDonald TrumpScaramucci says he will contact FBI, Justice Dept. over leaked financial disclosure Dem rep to introduce measure requiring White House to disclose pardons Lawmakers push to toughen foreign lobbying rules MORE Jr. revealed emails that showed an intermediary working with him to set up a meeting during the campaign with a Russian lawyer purporting to have damaging information about then-Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonHouse Judiciary Committee votes to request documents on Comey, Clinton GOP senator warns Trump: Panel won't take up attorney general nominee this year Overnight Cybersecurity: Facebook invests in group fighting election hacking | House panel advances DHS cyber revamp bill | Lawmakers mull cyber insurance for small businesses MORE.

Rob Goldstone, a music publicist who acted as the intermediary, said in the email chain the information “is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”