The House Just Voted To Limit Trump’s Ability To Alter US–Russia Relations

On a nearly unanimous vote, the House passed a new package of sanctions targeting Russia, Iran, and North Korea on Tuesday that would require the Trump administration to check in with them before making changes.

The House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a sanctions package on Tuesday that would limit President Donald Trump’s ability to set the tone of US–Russia relations.

The vote was nearly unanimous, with just three Republicans opposing it.

While the future of the legislation remains unclear, House GOP support of the bill, which clumps together new sanctions against Russia, Iran, and North Korea, is a sign that Republicans outside of the administration want to make sure the White House doesn't ignore Congress when it comes to foreign adversaries.

The bill would require Trump to get congressional approval before making any changes to sanctions against Russia. This comes in the midst of an FBI investigation and several congressional probes looking into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 election.

Asked what Republicans are hoping to accomplish with the sanctions bill, South Carolina Rep. Mark Sanford, a frequent Trump critic, said “a degree of control.”

“I think that there’s been a lot of speculation and question as to motivation… with regard to the Russia question, and this sort of puts it to bed,” Sanford told BuzzFeed News. “It’s definitive, if there’s going to be adjustment or change, you come to Congress. I think it’s good policy and good politics.”

The bill casts a wider net than just Russian influence in the election. Included in the sanctions are restrictions in response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine and Georgia, in addition to the sanctions against Iran and North Korea.

It’s unclear whether Trump will sign or veto the bill. On Monday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the president has been “very vocal about his support for continuing sanctions on those three countries” but is “going to study that legislation and see what the final product looks like.”

Sanders released a similar statement following the vote Tuesday evening, saying that "the White House is reviewing the House legislation and awaits a final legislative package for the President’s desk."

The bill would need to first pass the Senate, but given the overwhelming support in the House, approval appears likely. Sen. Bob Corker, chairman of the Foreign Relations committee, has said he supports the bill, but told reporters that there are some procedural issues to work out.

"We're about there, there's still some procedural issues we're discussing but, you know, I think it worked out very, very well. We've still got a couple of things to talk about on North Korea," Corker said, according to Reuters. BuzzFeed News has reached out to Corker’s office.

The tone on the Hill regarding Russia is much different from that of the administration, which has previously shown signs of wanting to improve relationships with the country. If Trump does veto the bill, Congress could move to overturn it.

“As US intelligence agencies have made clear, [Putin] attempted to interfere with our own election. Left unchecked, Russia is sure to continue its aggression,” California Rep. Ed Royce, chairman of the Foreign Affairs committee, said on the floor Tuesday.

“It’s an evil empire,” California Rep. Darrell Issa said about Russia. “They’ve been an unfair trade partner, they have caused Americans to die around the world because of their support for countries that support terrorism, they’ve gotten in the way repeatedly of democracy movements in their region, and now they’re trying to get in the way of our democracy.”

Asked if he saw the sanctions bill as a check on the Trump administration, Utah Rep. Rob Bishop told BuzzFeed News said yes, but only a small one.

“If we really were serious about checking the executive branch, there are a whole lot more things we should be doing about it, so this is kind of like a minor check,” Bishop told BuzzFeed News. “This is a step, but it’s a very small one.”

Getting the bill to the floor turned out to be a bigger hurdle than members originally bargained for. The Senate passed a version of its Russia sanctions bill in June, but the sanctions ran into procedural issues in the House, which drew out the process. In May, the House passed a separate North Korea sanctions bill, something the Senate has not yet taken up.

On Saturday, Republican members of the House announced a deal between the House and Senate to consider the combined sanctions.

It's unclear when the Senate will take up the new sanctions package.

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