House bill would prevent Trump from lifting Russian sanctions

House bill would prevent Trump from lifting Russian sanctions
© Greg Nash

Democratic leaders on Wednesday introduced bipartisan legislation in the House designed to prevent the Trump administration from lifting sanctions on Russia without congressional approval.

A number of lawmakers in both parties have been alarmed by President Trump's friendly approach to the Kremlin and his seeming openness to removing sanctions put in place by President Obama in response to Russian aggression in Ukraine and Crimea, and the Kremlin's interference in November's U.S. presidential election.

The legislation is designed "to ensure that Russia receives no sanctions relief until it earns it," in the words of Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), a sponsor of the bill.

"Clearly, there has been some confusion as to exactly the status of sanctions that exist," Hoyer said.

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Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffHillicon Valley: Officials pressed on Russian interference at security forum | FCC accuses Sinclair of deception | Microsoft reveals Russia tried to hack three 2018 candidates | Trump backs Google in fight with EU | Comcast gives up on Fox bid Top intel chief: I don't know what Trump, Putin discussed in meeting White House: Trump 'disagrees' with Putin's request to question Americans MORE (Calif.), senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said the recent resignation of national security adviser Michael Flynn over discussions he had with the Russian ambassador have only heightened the need for Congress to empower itself to monitor the administration's sanctions approach.

"I'm dismayed that such a step is even necessary," Schiff said. "These sanctions enjoyed bipartisan support when they were put in place by President Obama, and lifting them without a clear change in Russia's behavior would be nothing more than an appeasement of Putin's destabilizing agenda."

"Not only has Russian behavior not changed," he added, "it has intensified."

The legislation has bipartisan support, with the list of co-sponsors including GOP Reps. Tom Rooney (Fla.), Adam Kinzinger (Ill.) and Mike Turner (Ohio). Although both Rooney and Kinzinger had planned to attend Wednesday's unveiling, neither showed up.

"Both Mr. Kinzinger and Mr. Rooney said that they were going to be here," Hoyer said when asked about the absence. "But I knew they had committees, so maybe they're tied up in committee."

Hoyer said that he's also spoken to Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, who has "expressed interest" in the proposal.

Hoyer said he will also soon be reaching out to Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to promote the bill.

"I would hope that he would join us," Hoyer said.

A companion bill has also been introduced in the Senate, with bipartisan support from Sens. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamOvernight Defense: Trump inviting Putin to DC | Senate to vote Monday on VA pick | Graham open to US-Russia military coordination in Syria Polling analyst: Changes to legal immigration ‘the real sticking point among Democrats’ Graham would consider US-Russia military coordination in Syria MORE (R-S.C.), John McCainJohn Sidney McCainControversial Trump judicial nominee withdraws Trump vows to hold second meeting with Putin Ex-Montenegro leader fires back at Trump: ‘Strangest president' in history MORE (R-Ariz.), Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioSenate GOP attempts to wave Trump off second Putin summit GOP senator: We should accept Trump's 'apology' for Russian election interference comments Controversial Trump judicial nominee withdraws MORE (R-Fla.), Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinSenate panel advances Trump IRS nominee Juan Williams: Putin wins as GOP spins Senate passes resolution honoring victims of Capital Gazette shooting MORE (D-Md.), Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownDems pressure GOP to take legal action supporting pre-existing conditions Dems fume as Trump's consumer bureau pick refuses to discuss role in border policy Manufacturers support Reed to helm Ex-Im Bank MORE (D-Ohio) and Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillOvernight Health Care: Trump officials explore importing prescription drugs | Key ObamaCare, drug pricing regs under review | GOP looks to blunt attacks on rising premiums | Merck to lower some drug prices Dems pressure GOP to take legal action supporting pre-existing conditions The Hill's Morning Report — Trump’s walk-back fails to stem outrage on Putin meeting MORE (D-Mo.).

During an appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” early Wednesday, Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanDems unveil slate of measures to ratchet up pressure on Russia National Dems make play in Ohio special election Trump vows to hold second meeting with Putin MORE (R-Wis.) said he would back congressional efforts to codify sanctions against Russia, if the president attempts to weaken them.

“If those sanctions were to be watered down, I would, for sure, support codifying them and making sure they don’t get watered down,” Ryan said. “Because I do believe that Russia is a global menace, and their interests are not aligned with our interests.”

— Max Greenwood contributed to this report, which was updated at 12:00 p.m.