Senate proposes fix for delayed Russia sanctions bill
© Greg Nash

The Senate has proposed a fix for its legislation slapping new penalties on Russia after a top House chairman warned that it could be delayed over a procedural snafu. 

A spokesperson for the House Ways and Means Committee confirmed it had received language aimed at getting around the "blue slip" violation — a requirement that revenue bills start in the House — that had emerged as an unexpected roadblock to the bill. 
 
"Our committee has received suggestions from the Senate. We're making good progress on this issue and working to make sure we get this right," the spokesperson said.
 
It wasn't immediately clear what change senators have proposed. A spokesperson for Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerIt's time for Biden's Cuba GOP lawmaker patience runs thin with Trump tactics Former GOP senator: Republicans cannot let Trump's 'reckless' post-election claims stand MORE (R-Tenn.), who has been in talks on resolving the procedural issue, and Sen. Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinLiberals howl after Democrats cave on witnesses Senate strikes deal, bypassing calling impeachment witnesses Senators, impeachment teams scramble to cut deal on witnesses MORE (D-Md.), the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. 
 
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But Corker said earlier Wednesday that he thought the procedural issue could be resolved "very quickly." 
 
“We’re in very constructive conversations on the other side of the building. You know, it’s a minor issue. ... We’re going to try to figure out a fix for this very, very minute issue quickly,” Corker told The Hill.
 
The bill's hangup stemmed from a provision that required Congress get 30 days to review, and potentially block, efforts by Trump to lift any current Russia-related sanctions.  
 
The bill passed the Senate last week in a 98-2 vote, marking the Senate's most significant check on President Trump's foreign policy. 
 
But its future was thrown into limbo on Tuesday when Rep. Kevin BradyKevin Patrick BradyForeign perpetrators among fraudsters shamming state's unemployment systems Biden nominee previews post-Trump trade agenda New CDC guidance ends up deepening debate over reopening schools MORE (R-Texas) said the House parliamentarian had raised a constitutional objection to the legislation. 

"The House obviously will act to preserve the Constitution. Or the Senate can take the bill back, make the updates to it, and bring it back and move forward from that direction," Brady told reporters on Tuesday.

The GOP lawmaker stressed to reporters that he supports stronger sanctions, calling the Senate bill "sound policy," adding: "This isn’t a policy issue; it’s not a partisan issue. It is a constitutional issue." 

But the holdup sparked a wave of fears from top Democrats that House Republicans were trying to kill the legislation amid signs of pushback from the Trump administration.

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) accused the House of cooking up a “procedural excuse,” saying the “blue slip” violation “does not hold water.”

“Is the White House encouraging House Republicans to delay this bill so they can offer the Russians something in their upcoming talks?” he said Wednesday on the Senate floor. “We don’t know. It sure seems possible, even likely.”

The Senate's legislation would impose a range of new sanctions, including on any individuals tied to "malicious cyber activity," supplying weapons to Syrian President Bashar Assad's government or any that are tied to Russia's intelligence and defense sectors.

It would also give Congress 30 days — or 60 days around the August recess — to review and potentially block Trump from lifting or relaxing Russia sanctions, codify the sanctions on Russia imposed by executive order by the Obama administration and allow the Trump administration to impose new sanctions on sectors of the Russian economy.

It also includes new sanctions targeting Iran’s ballistic missile development, support for terrorism, transfer of weapons and human rights violations. 

A spokeswoman for Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) indicated late last week that the committee would "likely" take up the Senate's legislation. 

But Secretary of State Rex Tillerson appeared to use an appearance before the committee to telegraph concerns about the bill, warning lawmakers against undercutting “constructive dialogue” with Russia.

"I would urge Congress to ensure any legislation allows the president to have the flexibility to adjust sanctions," he told lawmakers.