WASHINGTON — The House needed a veto-proof majority today to even pass a sanctions bill via an expedited process that would restrict the Trump administration’s rollback powers, and got it on a 419-3 vote.
The dissenters were Reps. Justin Amash (R-Minn.), Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) and John Duncan (R-Tenn.). Massie said in a statement on his Facebook page that the sanctions against Iran, Russia and North Korea were “vague, expensive, and reckless.”
The final, veto-proof tally on the Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act of 2017 in the mid-June Senate vote was 98-2. The White House had reportedly been trying to get House Republicans to water down the language in the bill that also toughens sanctions on Moscow, saying the administration must retain foreign policy flexibility.
Once the legislation went to the lower chamber, the House Ways and Means Committee held it on the charge that it could be a “blue slip” violation — running afoul of the origination clause requiring revenue-generating measures to originate in the House — even though senators said they worked with the House early in the process to clear up any such issues.
Frustrated with the stall, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) drafted a House-originated version, which will now go back to the Senate for approval.
“The multitude of threats posed to our national security by Iran, Russia, and North Korea cannot be understated,” House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said in a statement after passage. “These bad actors have long sought to undermine the United States and disrupt global stability. Our job in Congress is to hold them accountable.”
“The bill we just passed with overwhelming bipartisan support is one of the most expansive sanctions packages in history,” he added. “It tightens the screws on our most dangerous adversaries in order to keep Americans safe.”
Asked Monday about President Trump’s current position on the bill, White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said he would be “looking over where it stands exactly at this point, and we’ll keep you guys posted on the decision.”
“I think the important part of this is that the president very much supports sanctions on those countries and wants to make sure that those remain, but at the same time wants to make sure that we get good deals,” Sanders said.
The House action comes as the Kremlin has stepped up its pressure to get the White House to return New York and Maryland compounds that intelligence officials say were used for espionage operations, and administration officials have indicated they’re receptive to the request.
In response to the intelligence community assessment that Russia conducted an extensive campaign influence operation during the presidential election season and at times violent harassment of U.S. diplomatic personnel in Russia, President Obama in December gave 35 Russian officials 72 hours to leave the country and shut down the Maryland and New York estates. Officials searching the homes afterward reportedly found the remnants of destroyed intelligence materials and related equipment after the Russians quickly cleared out in less than a day.
Presidential advisor Sebastian Gorka told CNN recently that the administration is considering giving the compounds back to Russia “because we want to give collaboration, cooperation a chance.”
House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said he thinks members in both parties understand “the importance of sending a message to Moscow about their interference in our election, as well as their continued efforts to destabilize and occupy parts of the Ukraine, and I’m very pleased that we have done this.”
“It will cabin what the president can do, his ability to unilaterally, for whatever reason, lift sanctions on Russia,” Schiff told CNN. “So I’m very pleased with the result.”