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White House Supports Sanctions Bill Against Russia

23 Jul 2017 3:00 pm
By Natalie Andrews 

WASHINGTON -- The White House supports legislation that would punish Russia for its interference in the 2016 election and restrict the president's power to remove sanctions on Moscow, spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Sunday.

Congressional negotiators reached a deal late Friday to advance the bill, previous versions of which Ms. Sanders had said contained provisions that eroded the president's power to conduct diplomacy. President Donald Trump has said he wants to improve America's relationship with Russia and has been slow to embrace the conclusion of intelligence agencies that Moscow meddled in the election.

But on Sunday, Ms. Sanders said on ABC's "This Week" that necessary changes had been made to the legislation. "Look, the administration is supportive of being tough on Russia, particularly in putting these sanctions in place," she said. "The original piece of legislation was poorly written but we were able to work with the House and Senate. ... And we support where the legislation is now."

The House is slated to vote Tuesday on a package of sanctions against Russia, Iran and North Korea, according to guidance released by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.). The new Russian sanctions, which passed the Senate last month in a 98-2 vote, have been held up in the House over disputes about a provision that would have prevented the House minority from introducing legislation to block the president if he chose to remove the sanctions.

The new deal is a compromise between Republican and Democratic leaders. It also makes some concessions to oil-and-gas companies.

"Those who threaten America and our interests should take notice -- your actions have consequences," Mr. McCarthy's Twitter account posted on Saturday.

The compromise legislation, which must pass the House and Senate, would tighten restrictions on the extension of credit to Russian entities and limit Russian businesses in the energy and defense sectors from partnering with U.S. citizens. It also would require the president to seek Congress's permission to relax any sanctions against Russia.

The bill would allow a senator to bring up a resolution of disapproval if the administration moves to lift the sanctions, and it would expedite House consideration of such a resolution once it passes the Senate.

Passing the bill before the August recess would give lawmakers a bipartisan victory to take to constituents back home, as they continue to tussle over health care and a tax overhaul. The legislation is expected to move forward, as the deal was negotiated by both parties and a similar North Korea sanctions bill passed the House in May with overwhelming bipartisan support.

The White House response to the bill is being closely watched, because despite the administration's previous criticism of the legislation, a failure to sign it could prompt criticism that Mr. Trump is siding with President Vladimir Putin amid investigations into the Russian interference in the election and into possible ties between Mr. Trump's associates and Russia.

Russia has denied interfering in the election. Mr. Trump has said there was no collusion between his campaign and Russia and has called questions about campaign associates' ties to Russia a "witch hunt."

"A nearly united Congress is poised to send President Putin a clear message on behalf of the American people and our allies, and we need President Trump to help us deliver that message," Sen. Ben Cardin (D., Md.) the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee said in a statement.

Write to Natalie Andrews at Natalie.Andrews@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

July 23, 2017 11:00 ET (15:00 GMT)

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