Vast support for Russia sanctions quashes potential for veto

FILE- In this June 30, 2017, file photo, White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders speaks during the daily press briefing at the White House in Washington. The White House indicated Sunday, July 23, that President Donald Trump would sign a sweeping Russia sanctions measure that requires him to get Congress’ permission before lifting or easing the economic penalties against Moscow. Sanders, the newly appointed White House press secretary, said the administration is supportive of being tough on Russia and “particularly putting these sanctions in place.” (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Strong congressional support from Republicans and Democrats for a new package of Russia sanctions effectively scuttles the potential for President Donald Trump to derail the legislation.

The House is set to vote Tuesday on the penalties that aim to punish Moscow for its meddling in the presidential election and military aggression in Ukraine and Syria. The Senate is expected to act soon after that, which means the measure could be sent to Trump before the GOP-led Congress breaks for its August recess.

The bill also would hit Iran and North Korea with fiscal and economic penalties. Both chambers are positioned to approve the legislation by veto-proof margins.

With those numbers looming, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has delivered slightly mixed messages. She indicated Sunday the president would sign the sanctions bill. But on Monday, Sanders said Trump is “going to study that legislation and see what the final product looks like.”

“The president very much supports sanctions on those countries but at the same time wants to be sure we get good deals,” she told reporters on Air Force One. “Those two things are very important.”

Signing a bill that sanctions Russia would mark a significant shift for Trump. He’s repeatedly cast doubt on the conclusion of U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia sought to tip the election in his favor. The president also has pushed for cooperation between Moscow and Washington on various matters, such as counterterrorism and the conflict in Syria, and more sanctions against Russia could imperil that effort.

Trump’s persistent overtures to Russia drove lawmakers to include a section that mandates a congressional review if Trump attempted to suspend or terminate the sanctions on Moscow. The White House had objected to the review requirement, arguing it would infringe on the president’s executive authority and tie his hands as he explores avenues of communication between the two former Cold War foes.

But the review section remained in the bill as a bipartisan team of House and Senate negotiators late last week resolved several lingering procedural and technical issues. Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the No. 2 House Democrat who’s been sharply critical of Trump’s stance on Russia, said he was satisfied the bill ensures his party’s ability to exercise rigorous oversight “over the administration’s implementation of sanctions.”

According to the bill, Trump is required to send Congress a report explaining why he wants to suspend or terminate a particular set of sanctions. Lawmakers would then have 30 days to decide whether to allow the move or reject it.

The legislation also hits Iran and North Korea with additional sanctions. A version of the bill that only addressed Russia and Iran cleared the Senate nearly six weeks ago with 98 votes.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., pushed to add the North Korea sanctions to the Senate-passed package. The House passed a separate bill in May by a 419-1 vote to hit Pyongyang with additional economic penalties, but the Senate had yet to take up the North Korea-only bill.

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters Monday the speed with which the Senate will move may depend on how many questions senators have about the North Korea section of the sanctions bill.

“There’s no real daylight between us,” he said of the House and Senate. “But when you get down to the final throes, members want to weigh in.”

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Contact Richard Lardner on Twitter: http://twitter.com/rplardner

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