House votes to take away Trump's Russia privileges

July 25, 2017, 5:14pm

The Republican-led House of Representatives voted 419-3 on Tuesday to impose new sanctions on Russia and restrict President Donald Trump’s authority to roll back existing ones, a bipartisan rebuke of the new president’s conciliatory approach toward Russia and his warm relationship with president Vladimir Putin.

The bill, which the Senate is expected to also overwhelmingly pass in the next week and send to the president’s desk, imposes additional sanctions on Russia for its seizure of Crimea in 2014 and for its interference in last year’s presidential election. It also imposes economic sanctions on Iran and North Korea.

Trump has repeatedly expressed doubt that Russia meddled in last year’s presidential election and the House vote on Tuesday suggests that such doubts about Russian actions are confined to the White House. Under this law, the Trump administration would have to give Congress 30 days notice and an explanation as to why it wants to suspend or eliminate sanctions against Russia. Leaders of either party could object and Congress could reject Trump’s actions.

Those possible actions include giving Russia back two large compounds that the Obama administration seized in the aftermath of the 2016 election. Reports have surfaced for months that the Trump administration is negotiating with Putin’s government to return them. This bill would give Congress the opportunity to block such actions, essentially transferring power from the president to the legislature.

It is unknown what Trump will do with the bill once it arrives on his desk. Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on Sunday that Trump intended to sign it but walked that back on Monday, telling reporting that the president is “going to study that legislation and see what the final product looks like.”

If Trump vetoes the legislation, both the House and Senate have the necessary votes to override that veto. A veto will only further raise suspicions among Democrats and even some Republicans about Trump’s oddly cordial relationship with Putin in the midst of an investigation into possible collusion between the two during the presidential campaign.

A veto also poses a problem for Republican leaders in Congress who aren’t anxious to overrule a new Republican president. Trump’s approval ratings may be low, but House Speaker Paul Ryan’s are even lower according to recent polls.

If Trump does veto the legislation, it would set up an early showdown with leaders of his own party.