Lawmakers Grow Frustrated over Stalled Russia Sanctions Bill

Lawmakers are growing increasingly frustrated with a series of procedural spats that are stalling new Russia sanctions in the House amid mounting concerns about Moscow’s election meddling, The Hill reports.

Senators thought they removed any roadblock to tougher financial penalties when they passed a technical fix late last month. Instead, the bill remains stuck in limbo.

“This is all doing nothing but helping Russia. Every day that goes by … mischief can happen, and I think we really could have passed it the week before the July Fourth recess,” Senator Bob Corker told reporters on Wednesday.

The latest holdup is House Democrats objection to a provision included in the Senate’s changes that would limit the minority’s ability to force a floor vote on a resolution of disapproval if the Trump administration were to lift sanctions on Russia.

The language, which was requested by House GOP leadership, would allow only the majority party in the chamber to bring up a resolution of disapproval. Democrats say this would be a way for House Republicans to offer cover to Trump.

The back-and-forth has frustrated their counterparts in the Senate, who argue the objection could easily be resolved. The top two members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Corker and Senator Ben Cardin, stressed that the House could easily fix the latest snag and pass the Russia sanctions bill if it wanted to.

It’s not “rocket science to do congressional review”, Cardin said, declining to specifically place the blame with House Republicans.

“Fix it. This is a smokescreen to a bill that needs to get done now. This issue is easy to fix,” he continued.

“I hope that pressure will build soon. Actually Speaker Paul Ryan and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi could easily resolve the minority issue, too, if they choose,” Corker added.

The Tennessee Republican, who guided the sanctions bill through the Senate, noted he spoke with Pelosi this week about the holdup and said he thinks Democrats are still trying to work out how to resolve their concerns.

There are signs that lawmakers feel pressure to take a firmer stance against Moscow, despite the Trump administration’s warning that the legislation would limit the president, The Hill adds.

Representative Ed Royce, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, is offering his own Russia sanctions if the House doesn’t move forward soon with the Senate-passed bill, according to a source familiar with his thinking. House Democrats also tried to shake loose the Senate bill on Wednesday and force Republicans to take up the legislation.

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer said he’s offered two suggestions to Ryan about a path forward, including allowing the majority leader or minority leader to bring up a vote. Hoyer, along with Pelosi and Representative Eliot Engel, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, also introduced a House version on Wednesday of the original Senate-passed bill without the problematic provision.

He’s also introducing the original Senate-passed bill, which didn’t include the provision being objected to by House Democrats.

“I don’t believe that having the president’s party in a position to protect him from any oversight is good policy for our country. And in fact, it’d be dangerous to our country,” Hoyer told reporters on Wednesday.

But a spokeswoman for Ryan dismissed Hoyer’s proposal as “grandstanding” and said the impasse would be resolved faster if Democrats would simply sign onto what the Senate already passed by unanimous consent.

“This is grandstanding and not a serious effort to resolve this issue and hold Russia accountable. This new package effectively means that the Senate would have to consider it all over again further delaying passing a sanctions package,” Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong said.

The roadblock comes after the Senate bill was already held up for weeks after Representative Kevin Brady said that according to the House parliamentarian, the legislation violated a requirement that revenue bills start in the House. That drew heavy skepticism from Democrats, who warned that Republicans were trying to delay the bill amid pushback from the Trump administration.

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