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US House approves sweeping sanctions package against Russia

The 419-3 vote brings President Trump one step closer to a choice he has strained to avoid

Matt Flegenheimer | NYT  |  Washington 

Donald Trump
US President Donald Trump

The House on Tuesday approved a sweeping package of against Russia, clearing a key hurdle in Congress’s effort — long opposed by the administration — to punish for its aggression toward its neighbors and its interference in last year’s American presidential election.

The 419-3 vote brings President one step closer to a choice he has strained to avoid: whether to sign legislation embraced by Republicans in both the House and the Senate that undercuts his attempts to ratchet down tensions with Moscow, or to veto the bill even as Russia-related scandal consumes his administration.

The measure would sharply limit the president’s ability to lift or suspend It also includes against Iran and North Korea, two countries the administration has been more eager to hold to account.

The legislation must be taken up by the Senate before being sent to the president’s desk. Senator of Kentucky, the majority leader, has not said whether that might happen before the August recess. The Senate supported a similar bill nearly unanimously last month, but it punished only Russia and Iran.

“Left unchecked, Russia is sure to continue its aggression,” said Representative Ed Royce, Republican of California and the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He said it was “well past time that we forcefully respond” to the conduct of all three countries.

Speaker Paul D. cheered the passage of “one of the most expansive packages in history.”

Initially, administration officials signaled that the president would sign the measure, arguing that the House strengthened it through some small changes. But on Tuesday, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the new White House press secretary, was more equivocal. “While the President supports tough on North Korea, Iran and Russia,” she said, “the White House is reviewing the House legislation and awaits a final legislative package for the president’s desk.”

Although the had stalled in the House amid technical concerns and lobbying from a White House that hoped to chart a different course in its relationship with Russia, leaders from both parties reached an agreement late last week to advance the measure. Senate Democrats have cheered the deal; some key Republicans have been more reserved.

Representative Eliot L. Engel of New York, the top Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee, called the bill “a strong, direct response to Vladimir Putin’s efforts to undermine American democracy.” Mr. Engel said he hoped the measure would not face further delays in the Senate, a prospect that Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the minority leader, seemed eager to escape.

“It’s critical the Senate act promptly on this legislation,” Mr. Schumer said, calling for passage before lawmakers leave for recess.

First Published: Wed, July 26 2017. 09:11 IST