House takes first jab at Russia sanctions

A House panel on Thursday took the first, symbolic jab at sanctioning Russia over its incursion into Ukraine.

The nonbinding resolution by the House Foreign Affairs Committee denounces Russia's military intervention in Crimea as a “threat to international peace and security.” It urges the U.S. and its partners to consider expelling Russia from the Group of 8 industrialized nations and slapping sanctions on the country.

“This bipartisan resolution strongly condemns Russia’s illegal violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and puts Putin on notice that his reckless actions will have consequences,” said Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), the top Democrat on the panel. “It also makes clear that the United States stands with the people of Ukraine and reaffirms our conviction that they should be able to determine their own future, free of interference and bullying by Russia.”

The House is expected to vote on the measure Tuesday. Separately, the House is expected to vote later on Thursday on a $1 billion line of credit for Ukraine.

Debate over the resolution remained largely bipartisan, with Democrats and Republicans only squabbling over a push by Rep. Ted PoeTed PoeTrump, Freedom Caucus turn on each other Trump threatens to ‘fight’ Freedom Caucus in midterms Second GOP lawmaker mulls leaving Freedom Caucus MORE (R-Texas) to encourage the Obama administration to lift restrictions on natural gas exports. The committee ended up agreeing on softer language that “calls on the U.S. to promote increased gas exports” to Ukraine and other Eastern European nations threatened by Russian control of energy flows.

Lawmakers also added an amendment by Rep. Bill Keating (D-Mass.), the top Democrat on the Europe subpanel, calling on NATO and European Union members to suspend military cooperation and arms sales to Russia.

The resolution also urges the establishment of a joint effort with the EU to “provide the Ukrainian government with financial, economic, and technical assistance, including asset recovery, to assist an economic recovery program that includes fundamental reforms.” The resolution says the partners should work together to help Ukraine hold free and fair elections in May, and obtain energy independence to break Russia's stranglehold on its economy.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), the chairman of the committee's panel on Europe and a frequent defender of Russian actions, didn't speak up during debate and skipped the vote.

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