Russia, Iran sanctions bill could hit roadblock in US House

A bill that slaps new sanctions on Russian Federation, and passed the Senate nearly unanimously, has hit a major stumbling block in the House.

Brady said that he believes the problem can be fixed by the Senate, which may have to find a way to vote on a different version of the bill, even as Senate leadership tries to clear the decks of major items like health care reform and raising the debt ceiling.

But the measure must still pass the House before it can be sent to Trump to sign into law, or veto, and Republican staff members said the legislation violated a constitutional requirement that any bill that raises revenue for the government must originate in the House, something known as a "blue slip" violation.

Just a day before the Senate passed it, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson appeared before the House Foreign Affairs Committee and appeared to speak against the measure, as he pressed the Trump administration's case for more "constructive" relations with Russian Federation.

"We would ask for the flexibility to turn the heat up when we need to, but also to ensure that we have the ability to maintain a constructive dialogue", Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee last week, on the day the Senate passed the bill stepping up sanctions and restraining the president from being able to roll existing sanctions back. But he didn't provide a timetable for either pathway or specify the provisions in the Senate bill that caused the breach.

Rep. Eliot Engel of NY, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said he's concerned that sending the sanctions bill to the committee will give the Trump administration an opportunity to weaken legislation.

But the decision is sounding alarm bells among Democrats, who are warning that Republicans could be trying to delay the bill amid pushback from the Trump administration.

Sen. (D-Md.) stressed that he didn't think the Senate bill actually had a "blue slip" issue, but echoed Engel noting they it could be "easily corrected" by using a House bill. An overly aggressive sanctions bill, Tillerson suggested, could lead Moscow to shut off potentially promising talks with Washington. Lawmakers who backed the legislation have cited Russia's support for Syrian President Bashar Assad and its backing of separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine as additional reasons for punishing Moscow. The bill would require a congressional review if Trump attempts to ease or end penalties against Moscow.

On Iran, the bill directs the president to impose sanctions on any entity that knowingly contributes to Iran's ballistic missile program. The measure would apply terrorism sanctions to the country's Revolutionary Guards and enforce an arms embargo.

Rep. Eliot Engel of NY, the top Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee, has called for the House to immediately hold an up-or-down vote on the sanctions legislation. Leaders there could refer the matter of sanctions to the four House committees that have jurisdiction over the bill. "A blue slip problem is a procedural hiccup, not an excuse for delaying a critical piece of legislation".

  • Julie Sanders