Senators clinch deal to pass Russia sanctions bill again

Lawmakers have clinched a deal on slapping new financial penalties on Russia after weeks of back-and-forth negotiations across the Capitol. 

Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerSen. Warner to introduce amendment limiting Trump’s ability to revoke security clearances White House weighs clawing back State, foreign aid funding Rand Paul to ask Trump to lift sanctions on Russian leaders MORE (R-Tenn.) said lawmakers have an agreement and are working to fast-track the bill in the Senate so that it can pass a second time without a formal vote.

"Yeah we've had a deal. It's being hotlined right now," Corker, who has been negotiating with House Republicans and Senate Democrats, told reporters on Thursday. 

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A Senate Democratic aide confirmed Corker's comments, noting a handful of key senators — including Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTo make the House of Representatives work again, make it bigger Reforms can stop members of Congress from using their public office for private gain Election Countdown: GOP worries House majority endangered by top of ticket | Dems make history in Tuesday's primaries | Parties fight for Puerto Rican vote in Florida | GOP lawmakers plan 'Freedom Tour' MORE (D-N.Y.) and Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSen. Warner to introduce amendment limiting Trump’s ability to revoke security clearances The Hill's 12:30 Report Rand Paul to ask Trump to lift sanctions on Russian leaders MORE (R-Ky.) — have signed off on the bill. 

"They’re hopeful their colleagues will agree and allow for [unanimous consent] in order to kick this back to the House," the aide said. 

If they can get every senator to sign off on the fast-track, the Senate could send a tweaked version of their bill back to the House before they leave for the weeklong July Fourth recess. 

The breakthrough comes less than a day after Corker warned that negotiations had reached a "point of total silliness" focused on "three words" of the roughly 140-page bill.

Corker declined to say what the holdup was on Thursday but denied that they were weakening a provision giving Congress at least 30 days to review, and potentially block, any push by the Trump administration to lift sanctions. 

"No, no, no," he said heading to an elevator in the Capitol basement, before turning around and adding, "it allows the House to do the same thing we're doing on that, that's all. 

"The changes were like a speck on your shirt," he said, pointing to a reporter. "This is a technical issue that in no way changes the context of the bill." 

The Senate passed the bill, which also includes tougher Iran sanctions, two weeks ago. 

It immediately hit a brick wall in the House after Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin BradyKevin Patrick BradyTreasury releases proposed rules on major part of Trump tax law Republicans happy to let Treasury pursue 0 billion tax cut Trump weighs big tax cut for rich: report MORE (R-Texas) said it had been flagged by the parliamentarian as a "blue slip" violation — a requirement that revenue bills start in the House. 

That excuse has drawn heavy skepticism from Democrats, who worried that the bill was being delayed amid reports of pushback from the White House.

Schumer has publicly pushed Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanNew Dem ad uses Paterno, KKK, affair allegations to tar GOP leaders House Dem: Party's aging leaders is 'a problem' Rand Paul to ask Trump to lift sanctions on Russian leaders MORE (R-Wis.) to pass the bill before the House leaves on Friday for a week-long recess. 

"It's critical, critical that Congress speak in a loud, clear and unified voice to President Putin," he said. "I want to put the House on notice. If they water down this bill, weaken the sanctions, add loopholes to the legislation, they will find stiff resistance here in the Senate." 

Both sides have blamed each other for the setbacks on a bill that senators hoped would have a boost of momentum heading into the House. 

"Ya'll are in a tizzy about a minor issue that should have been handled in an hour," Corker told reporters. 

Asked if House Republicans were to blame, Corker said no. Pressed if Senate Democrats were to blame, he paused before reiterating: "It should have been handled in an hour." 

A senior Senate Democratic aide said on Wednesday that they wanted a deal with the House, adding that they wouldn't water down the bill before the Senate agreed to pass it for a second time. 

A second Senate Democratic aide pushed back against suggestions that their caucus was to blame for the delay. 

"Not true at all, but of course we want to know that the House has the political will and courage to just get this done. .... Because we maintain that the blue slip issue was a parliamentary delay on their part," the aide said.

The aide added that the Senate's 98-2 vote "should mean something across the Capitol — so when they get the bill back will they act expeditiously or will they further delay under their more burdensome ‘regular order.’" 

Despite the agreement, the bill's path in the House is unclear, though top Republicans have signaled support for it.

Ryan urged the Senate to repass its bill during a press conference on Thursday, and reiterated that the hold up was a procedural issue, not a policy one.

Corker has said that Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), the Foreign Affairs chairman, has been lobbying him to have the Senate pass the bill a second time, and believes that Ryan is supportive of the legislation. 

"I talked to Speaker Ryan last night late and I know they plan to take the bill up," he said. "We should have done this on Tuesday it would have already passed the House."