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 SchiffOvernight Cybersecurity: Equifax hit by earlier hack | What to know about Kaspersky controversy | Officials review EU-US privacy pact Democrat: Trump only loyal to the 'pro-Trump' party Sunday shows preview: Trump officials gear up for UN assembly 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 GrahamTop Louisiana health official rips Cassidy over ObamaCare repeal bill Senate Dems hold floor talk-a-thon against latest ObamaCare repeal bill Overnight Defense: Senate passes 0B defense bill | 3,000 US troops heading to Afghanistan | Two more Navy officials fired over ship collisions MORE (R-S.C.), John McCainJohn Sidney McCainSenate's defense authorization would set cyber doctrine Senate Dems hold floor talk-a-thon against latest ObamaCare repeal bill Overnight Defense: Senate passes 0B defense bill | 3,000 US troops heading to Afghanistan | Two more Navy officials fired over ship collisions MORE (R-Ariz.), Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioOvernight Defense: Senate passes 0B defense bill | 3,000 US troops heading to Afghanistan | Two more Navy officials fired over ship collisions Senate passes 0B defense bill Trump bets base will stick with him on immigration MORE (R-Fla.), Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinTrump officials brief lawmakers on North Korea Blackwater founder calls for military contractors in Afghanistan Tillerson moves to eliminate special envoy posts at State Dept.: report MORE (D-Md.), Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell Brown'Hillbilly Elegy' author won't run for Senate Brown, Portman urge Trump administration to move quickly on a steel decision Dems call on DeVos to work with CFPB to protect student borrowers MORE (D-Ohio) and Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillGOP sees fresh opening with Dems’ single payer embrace Senators blast internet subsidy program It is time to make domestic terrorism a federal crime MORE (D-Mo.).

During an appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” early Wednesday, Speaker Paul RyanPaul RyanRyan: Graham-Cassidy 'best, last chance' to repeal ObamaCare Ryan: Americans want to see Trump talking with Dem leaders Overnight Finance: CBO to release limited analysis of ObamaCare repeal bill | DOJ investigates Equifax stock sales | House weighs tougher rules for banks dealing with North Korea 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.