National Security

White House pressuring House GOP to weaken Russia sanctions bill: report

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The White House is pressing House Republicans to soften a measure imposing new sanctions on Russia after the Senate soundly passed the penalties last week, The New York Times reported Thursday.

Administration officials are looking to strike a provision in the bill that gives Congress the power to review efforts by the president to lift sanctions against Russia. This language was added to make it more difficult to lift sanctions imposed by former President Obama.

The pressure from the White House comes on the heels of the bill being stalled in the House by a procedural issue.

The bill was “blue-slipped” because it affected government revenue, and revenue measures are supposed to originate in the House.

{mosads}Generally, such issues are easily dealt with, but Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) has said that the Senate may need to vote on the bill again. Given how precious floor time is in the Senate, that could further delay the bill. Senate Democrats have accused Republicans of using a procedural excuse to delay or block the bill.

It’s not unusual for an administration to want to assert its power over sanctions, but the situation is tricky for Trump.

The Russian sanctions bill is popular with Republicans, and it is tied to additional sanctions on Iran.

That sets up a battle between Trump and his own party if Republicans object to changes sought by the White House.

The level of support in the Senate suggests Congress might be able to override a presidential veto, though it’s unclear whether the fight would get to that point.

Trump faces a number of investigations into Russian election meddling, including whether there were links between Moscow and his campaign. That would make a veto, or even a push to weaken the sanctions, even more politically sensitive.

The Trump administration has cautioned against toughening sanctions against Russia, arguing that it could upend efforts to ease tensions and promote cooperation between the two countries.

The Senate passed the measure last week in a 98-2 vote.

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