July 28, 2017

House of Representatives overwhelmingly passes Russia sanctions bill

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WASHINGTON – The House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill expanding sanctions on Russia on July 25 by a vote of 419-3. The Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (HR 3364) sanctions Iran, Russia and North Korea for their dangerous and belligerent actions that undermine the United States and its allies.

The bill has an additional North Korea component that the original Senate bill did not have, but it is expected to pass in the Senate with the original bipartisan support.

The Senate had passed its version of the sanctions bill by a vote of 98-2 back on June 15.

Both the Senate and House versions of the bill allow Congress to block the administration from unilaterally lifting or scaling back sanctions imposed against Moscow. Both bolster economic sanctions imposed on Russia after it annexed Crimea and invaded eastern Ukraine in 2014.

The measure, as amended by the House, now goes back to the Senate for its action. Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he expects the expanded bill will be passed by the Senate.

The Washington Post quoted House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), as saying: “This is critical at a moment when our allies are uncertain about where this administration stands with respect to Russian aggression.” Rep. Hoyer pointed out that Congress could pursue additional sanctions targeting the Russian energy industry if Russian President Vladimir Putin and allies “fail to heed the message of this bill that their business as usual cannot and must not continue.”

The Ukrainian National Information Service (UNIS), the Washington public affairs bureau of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America (UCCA), sent an e-mail thanking Ukrainian American community members for “your efforts, persistent phone calls, e-mails and tweets.”

“Many congressional offices have mentioned your resolve and are grateful for your determination. As mentioned in previous e-mails, we were not alone in our endeavor as a broad coalition of organizations actively joined the campaign to impose sanctions against Russia for its aggression.,” UNIS noted.

On the House floor prior to the vote, Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, noted: “This bill represents broad bipartisan, House-Senate agreement that the United States must enforce tougher sanctions on Russia, Iran and North Korea. …These three regimes, in different parts of the world, are threatening vital U.S. interests and destabilizing their neighbors. It is well past time that we forcefully respond.”

Speaking about Ukraine and Russia, Rep. Royce stated: “Under Vladimir Putin, Russia has invaded its neighbor Ukraine, seizing its territory and destabilizing its government. It poses a threat to our NATO allies in Europe, as Moscow works to undermine democratic values with determination and sophistication. As U.S. intelligence agencies have made clear, this former KGB agent attempted to interfere with our own election. Left unchecked, Russia is sure to continue its aggression.”

Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-N.J.) said of the passage of H.R. 3364: “This tough package strengthens the ability of Congress to oversee the implementation of critical sanctions on some bad actors. Congress is sending a clear message to the world that we will not stand idly by as North Korea, Iran and Russia threaten their neighbors and continue to undermine American interests at home and abroad.”

Rep. Pascrell added, “I call upon the Senate to pass the bill to hold these regimes accountable for their destabilizing actions and the president to then swiftly sign this sanctions package into law.”

The Washington Post reported on July 26 that Russian lawmakers were calling for retaliation against the new U.S. sanctions, and it quoted Sergei A. Ryabkov, the Russian deputy foreign minister, as saying that the new sanctions would bury any prospect of improving relations, calling the measures “beyond common sense.”

“The authors and sponsors of this bill are making a very serious step toward destruction of prospects for normalizing relations with Russia and do not conceal that that’s their target,” Mr. Ryabkov said, according to the Russian news agency ITAR-TASS.

Sources: UNIS, House Foreign Affairs Committee, The Washington Post and the Office of Rep. Bill Pascrell.

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