Congressional leaders have reached an agreement on a set of sweeping sanctions against Russia as punishment for meddling in the U.S. election as well as its military aggression, which essentially would prevent President Donald Trump from unilaterally removing sanctions on Russia. The measure, which also allows new sanctions against Iran and North Korea, is scheduled for a vote in the House of Representatives on Tuesday. The Senate passed a previous version of the bill nearly unanimously last month.
The agreement between Republican and Democratic leaders was reached despite the White House’s persistent lobbying against the measure that it says interferes with Executive authority. If approved in Congress, Trump will face a tough choice of whether to veto the bill, which would lead to accusations that he is doing the Kremlin’s bidding, or approve something his administration has opposed. Two senior administration officials told the New York Times they don’t foresee the president vetoing the bill given the current controversy surrounding his campaign’s contacts with Russian officials. But no one is willing to place bets quite yet. “As ever, Mr. Trump retains the capacity to surprise, and this would be his first decision about whether to veto a significant bill,” notes the Times.
Chances of a veto could also be far-fetched considering how it would involve expending political capital without any likely gains. The bill will be considered under an expedited process for uncontroversial legislation that requires a two-thirds majority to pass. That should, at least theoretically, mean the bill will be veto-proof.
Under the measure, Trump must seek approval from Congress before taking any action that would “significantly alter” U.S. foreign policy with Russia, including easing sanctions. Congress would then have 30 days to accept or reject the proposed changes. The extent of the involvement of House Democrats in any review process was a key point of debate but Democrats say they’re satisfied with the final outcome. “The legislation ensures that both the majority and minority are able to exercise our oversight role over the administration’s implementation of sanctions,” Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland said.
Other Democratic leaders expressed optimism that the bill will be on the president’s desk before the August recess. “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,” said Sen. Ben Cardin, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.