US House overwhelmingly approves Russia sanctions, deals blow to Donald Trump's presidency

Washington: The US House of Representatives has overwhelmingly voted to impose new sanctions against Russia, Iran and North Korea for their dangerous and belligerent actions that undermine America and its allies.

The Russia, Iran and North Korea sanctions bill was passed with a 419-3 votes in the lower house of the US Congress on Tuesday.

The bill is aimed at punishing Moscow for meddling in the US presidential election and its military aggression in Ukraine and Syria. It also seeks to make Tehran pay a price for its "continued support of terrorism."

The bill, that notably constrains President Donald Trump's ability to waive the penalties, is now headed to the Senate, where there is support for sanctions but debate about whether to include penalties on North Korea.

House Speaker Paul Ryan said that the is one of the most expansive sanctions packages in the history. "It tightens the screws on our most dangerous adversaries in order to keep Americans safe," he said.

 US House overwhelmingly approves Russia sanctions, deals blow to Donald Trumps presidency

Capitol Hill. Reuters

House Democratic Whip Steny H Hoyer said the bill seeks to make it harder for Russia to use that type of coercion and empower other nations to join us in standing up against Russian aggression. "These three (Russian, Iranian and North Korean) regimes, in different parts of the world, are threatening vital US interests and destabilising their neighbours. It is well past time that we forcefully respond," Ed Royce, chairman of the House foreign affairs committee, an author of the bill, said after the passage of the legislation.

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer said the House vote on this tough sanctions bill sends a message to Russian President Vladimir Putin that meddling in US elections will not be tolerated. "Senate Republican leaders should move this bill as soon as possible, so that it can be on the President's desk without delay. Passing the bill on a bipartisan basis will send a strong signal to the White House that the Kremlin needs to be held accountable for meddling in last year's election," he said.

On the House floor, Congressman Joe Crowley alleged Putin's interference in the 2016 presidential elections was a blatant attempt to undermine and weaken American democracy, threats that have been met with disregard from the Trump administration. "I'm glad my colleagues in the House voted to impose stronger sanctions on the Russian government and make it harder for the White House to lift existing sanctions. House Republicans should have moved on this long ago, as this is an important step forward to ensure that Russian leaders will face consequences for their actions," he said.

He added that this vote will hopefully also allow the Congress to get back to work for the American people. "The numerous scandals emanating from the Trump White House on Russia are a distraction that has kept Congress from focusing on the issues Americans want to see progress on jobs, the economy, and expanded opportunities for growth," Crowley said.

According to The Hill newspaper, the vote amounted to a rebuke of Trump, whose administration had pushed to water down the bill's provisions giving Congress the power to veto the lifting of sanctions. "While the president supports tough sanctions on North Korea, Iran and Russia, the White House is reviewing the House legislation and awaits a final legislative package for the President's desk," White House Press Secretary, Sarah Sanders said.

Royce said the bill represents broad bipartisan, House-Senate agreement that the United States must enforce tougher sanctions on Russia, Iran, and North Korea. The bill, he said, gives the administration important economic and diplomatic leverage by targeting the things that matter to Vladimir Putin and his allies the most, their corrupt efforts to profit from the country's oil wealth and their ability to sell weapons overseas.

To ensure the current economic sanctions remain in place as long as Russian aggression continues, Royce said this bill empowers the Congress to review and disapprove any sanctions relief. "This strong oversight is necessary and appropriate. After all, it is Congress that the Constitution empowers to regulate commerce with foreign nations," he added.

Tehran continues to threaten Israel by providing funding and advanced rockets to Hezbollah, its leading terrorist proxy, Royce claimed. "It continues to hold Americans hostage while developing intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons. To strengthen the US response to the threat from Iran this bill includes provisions originally introduced by my counterpart, Senator (Bob) Corker, which increase sanctions on those involved in the regime’s human rights abuses, its support for terrorism, as well as its ballistic missile program,” Royce said.

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Updated Date: Jul 26, 2017 08:20:15 IST