Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who took over as White House press secretary from Sean Spicer, said on ABC’s “This Week” that President Donald Trump may sign legislation that would impose broad sanctions on Russia. Speaking on Sunday, Sanders said, “We support where the legislation is now, and will continue to work with the House and Senate to put those tough sanctions in place on Russia until the situation in Ukraine is fully resolved.” It includes stiff economic penalties on Iran and North Korea.
The House may consider the measure this week, which requires the president to obtain Congressional permission before lifting or easing the economic penalties against Russia in retribution for its invasion of Ukraine and its meddling in the presidential election.
On Saturday, Congressional Democrats and Republicans announced agreement on setting aside some issues with the bill. “North Korea, Iran and Russia have in different ways all threatened their neighbors and actively sought to undermine American interests,” according to a joint statement by House Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA). They said that the bill “will now exclusively focus on these nations and hold them accountable for their dangerous actions.”
The White House had objected to provisions in the bill that required a Congressional review should the president terminate sanctions on Russia. Sanders said on Sunday that the White House and Congress have seen the way towards making needed changes to the proposed legislation.
Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee was among those who object to Trump’s overtures to Russian President Vladimir Putin, claiming that Trump is not willing to address Russia’s belligerence, thus “leaving Congress with the urgent responsibility to hold Vladimir Putin accountable.”
The requirement for a Congressional review is modeled on legislation advocated by Republicans in 2015 that gave Congress a vote as to whether Barack Obama, as president, could lift sanctions against Iran. Republicans had complained that Obama superseded his presidential powers, requiring Congressional intervention. The new legislation requires the president to send a report to Congress that explains why he wants to suspend or terminate any sanctions. Congress would then have 30 days to decide whether to allow the move or reject it.
The sanctions on North Korea would bar ships owned by North Korea or by countries that refuse to comply with U.N. resolutions against it from operating in U.S. territorial waters or docking at American ports. The importation of products of North Korea’s forced labor would be prohibited from entering the United States. Also, mandatory penalties would be imposed on people involved in Iran’s ballistic missile program and anyone who does business with them. The measure would apply terrorism sanctions to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and enforce an arms embargo.