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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 SchiffBiden to keep Wray as FBI director Biden urged to reverse Pompeo-Trump move on Houthis Angus King warns of 'grave danger' of Trump revealing classified information 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 GrahamTrump selects South Carolina lawyer for impeachment trial Democrats formally elect Harrison as new DNC chair McConnell proposes postponing impeachment trial until February MORE (R-S.C.), John McCainJohn Sidney McCainArizona GOP censures top state Republicans McCain, Flake and Ducey Whoopi Goldberg wears 'my vice president' shirt day after inauguration Budowsky: Democracy won, Trump lost, President Biden inaugurated MORE (R-Ariz.), Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioSunday shows preview: All eyes on Biden administration to tackle coronavirus Rubio: Biden 'talking like a centrist' but governing 'from the radical left' The Hill's Morning Report - Biden's crisis agenda hits headwinds MORE (R-Fla.), Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinSenators introduce bill to award Officer Goodman the Congressional Gold Medal Democrats float 14th Amendment to bar Trump from office Romney calls for Senate to pass sanctions on Putin over Navalny poisoning MORE (D-Md.), Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownSenators introduce bill to award Officer Goodman the Congressional Gold Medal Senate panel unanimously advances Yellen nomination for Treasury Senate Democrats file ethics complaint against Hawley, Cruz over Capitol attack MORE (D-Ohio) and Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillFor Biden, a Senate trial could aid bipartisanship around COVID relief Lobbying world Former McCaskill aides launch PAC seeking to thwart Hawley MORE (D-Mo.).

During an appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” early Wednesday, Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanBiden's inauguration marked by conflict of hope and fear The Hill's 12:30 Report: Sights and sounds from Inauguration Day Revising the pardon power — let the Speaker and Congress have voices 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.