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 SchiffTrump’s feud with the press in the spotlight Schiff: Trump’s attacks on intelligence community are 'deeply counterproductive' Dem: Trump’s claim that media is the enemy is what ‘tin-pot dictators say’ 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 GrahamCEOs praise House GOP border tax proposal Trump’s feud with the press in the spotlight Senators eye new sanctions against Iran MORE (R-S.C.), John McCainJohn McCainTrump names McMaster new national security adviser How does placing sanctions on Russia help America? THE MEMO: Trump's wild first month MORE (R-Ariz.), Marco RubioMarco RubioGOP loses top Senate contenders How does placing sanctions on Russia help America? Republicans play clean up on Trump's foreign policy MORE (R-Fla.), Ben CardinBen CardinHouse bill would prevent Trump from lifting Russian sanctions Overnight Cybersecurity: White House does damage control on Flynn | Pressure builds for probe Will Cory Booker vote against America’s ambassador to Israel? MORE (D-Md.), Sherrod BrownSherrod BrownHouse bill would prevent Trump from lifting Russian sanctions Dem senators call for independent Flynn probe Overnight Regulation: Trump signs repeal of oil industry transparency rule MORE (D-Ohio) and Claire McCaskillClaire McCaskillJuan Williams: Senate GOP begins to push Trump away Dem senator: I may face 2018 primary from Tea Party-esque progressives Dems ask for hearings on Russian attempts to attack election infrastructure MORE (D-Mo.).

During an appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” early Wednesday, Speaker Paul RyanPaul RyanCEOs praise House GOP border tax proposal 7 key players in the GOP's border tax fight Angst in GOP over Trump's trade agenda 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.