The Republican-led House pushed toward approval of a sweeping Russia sanctions bill that bars President Donald Trump from easing the penalties without first getting permission from Congress, a demand that could imperil his bid for better relations with Moscow.
Lawmakers on Tuesday are expected to overwhelmingly pass the popular bill, which aims to punish Moscow with new financial sanctions for its meddling in the presidential election and military aggression in Ukraine and Syria. The sanctions package also would slap penalties on Iran and North Korea.
The Senate is expected to act soon after that and the measure could be sent to Trump before Congress breaks for its August recess. Both chambers are positioned to approve the bill by veto-proof margins.
Trump hasn’t threatened to reject the bill, but Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and other senior administration officials had objected to a mandated congressional review should the president attempt to ease or lift the sanctions on Russia. They’ve argued it would infringe on the president’s executive authority and tie his hands as he explores avenues of communication and cooperation between the two former Cold War foes.
But Trump’s persistent overtures to Russia pushed lawmakers to include the sanctions review. Many lawmakers view Russia as the nation’s top strategic adversary and believe additional sanctions will allow the U.S. to operate from a position of strength in any negotiations with Moscow.
Trump’s “rhetoric toward the Russians has been far too accommodating and conciliatory, up to this point,” said Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa.
“Russian behavior has been atrocious,” Dent said. “They deserve these enhanced sanctions. Relations with Russia will improve when Russian behavior changes and they start to fall back into the family of nations.”
Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., said Congress “is uncomfortable with any rapprochement with Moscow without getting some things for it.” But he said the legislation isn’t intended to be a message to Trump.
“We’re sending a message to Moscow,” Kinzinger said. “But if the president had any intention of trying to give Vladimir Putin what he wants on certain areas, I think he’ll think twice about it.”
Heavy support for the bill from Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate has effectively scuttled the potential for Trump to derail the legislation. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders 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 penalizes Russia in part for interfering in 2016 campaign 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. He’s blasted as a “witch hunt” investigations into the extent of Russia’s interference and whether the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow.
According to the bill, Trump is required to send Congress a report explaining why he wants to suspend or terminate a particular set of the sanctions on Russia. Lawmakers would then have 30 days to decide whether to allow the move or reject it.
The North Korea-related sanctions bar ships owned by the reclusive nation or by countries that refuse to comply with U.N. resolutions against Pyongyang from operating in American waters or docking at U.S. ports. Goods produced by North Korea’s forced labor would be prohibited from entering the United States.
The sanctions package also imposes mandatory penalties on people involved in Iran’s ballistic missile program and anyone who does business with them. The measure would apply terrorism sanctions to the country’s Revolutionary Guards and enforce an arms embargo.
Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, said “it is well past time to respond with meaningful action” to the threats posed to the U.S. by the three countries.
A version of the sanctions legislation that only addressed Russia and Iran cleared the Senate nearly six weeks ago with 98 votes. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said the speed with which the Senate will move may depend on how many questions senators have about the North Korea section of the bill.
“There’s no real daylight between us,” Corker said of the House and Senate. “But when you get down to the final throes, members want to weigh in.”
The Associated Press contributed to this article.