Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Russia Sanctions Bill Hits New Snag

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker said his Chamber would likely Cut Out its North Korea Provisions.

House and Senate Republicans clashed Wednesday over a Bipartisan Package of Sanctions Targeting Russia, Iran, and North Korea as the Senate GOP threw up a new Hurdle that could significantly Delay the Bill's arrival on President Trump's desk.

Less than 24 hours after the Sanctions Deal Passed the House 419-3, Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker (R-TN) said his Chamber would likely Cut Out its North Korea Provisions, which were added to the mix in the last lap of talks on the Legislation at the behest of House GOP Leaders, and send it back across the Capitol. House Republican Leaders responded to Corker's gambit by urging the Senate to act quickly on the Bill and warning that any changes would postpone Trump's looming decision on a Veto until September.

Corker, a Leading Author of the Initial Package of Penalties against Russia and Iran, had stayed conspicuously silent as Senior House and Senate Negotiators in both Parties unveiled a Deal Saturday that allows Congress to Block Trump from Easing or Ending any Sanctions against Moscow.

His critical comments Wednesday morning risk Reopening fellow Republicans to Democratic Charges that they are Delaying the Bill's Final Passage at the behest of a President who has long Dismissed U.S. Intelligence Agencies' conclusion that Russia Meddled in the Presidential Election.

This afternoon, Republicans are nearing an Agreement that would allow the Senate to Send the Sanctions Bill to Trump's desk before the August Recess, although Details of any such Agreement remain unclear.

The House GOP's North Korea addition is "something we have never sat down and worked through the language on like we did with the other pieces" of the Sanctions Package, Corker said at an Event hosted by the Washington Post. "So we have people in our body that want to weigh in on those issues." "What likely will happen is we will strip out the North Korea piece and send it back to them so that the two pieces that we’ve negotiated together will remain intact," Corker added, warning that the Situation could change yet again.

The Office of House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R, CA-23rd District), who first pressed to add North Korea to the Bill, responded by urging the Senate to "act expeditiously" on the Bill that cleared the lower Chamber Tuesday. “There has long been agreement that North Korea sanctions are due -- especially given new reports that North Korea will be able to reliably deliver a nuclear weapon to the continental United States by the end of next year," McCarthy spokesman Matt Sparks said by email.

Excising the North Korea language and forcing the House to vote again on only the Russia and Iran portions of the Bill could ensure the Bill does not become law before Lawmakers leave Washington for their annual August Recess.

House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce (R, CA-39th District) sounded a similar note in a Wednesday Statement, noting that the Senate failed to act on the House's North Korea Sanctions "even after Kim Jong Un launched a new [intercontinental ballistic missile] that could soon be capable of hitting California." "Further delay on North Korea is completely unacceptable," Royce added.

Corker said later Wednesday that House Republicans were fully aware of his Objections to the Addition of the North Korea Penalties before they trumpeted a Bipartisan, Bicameral Deal on Saturday. "Every office, every meeting — it would be better to deal with North Korea at another time," Corker said, outlining his Communications with House Counterparts. "We expressed concerns about it. They decided to add it, and I don't take affront. I'm just trying to pass a piece of legislation. We've had a good working relationship."

Corker told Reporters that he had a "fulsome conversation" with McCarthy about his concerns. Asked what changes he might seek to the Bill, Corker said that some Republicans want to add Language giving Congress the Power to Block Trump from making Changes to North Korea Sanctions, similar to the Legislation's Russia Handcuffs on the President, which the White House has Resisted.

The White House has avoided taking any firm Position on the Sanctions Bill, which would allow Congress to Block Trump from Easing or Ending Penalties against Vladimir Putin's Government. After initially saying they would Press House Republicans to give Trump more Leeway to Warm Relations with Putin, Trump Aides appeared to concede when Saturday's deal included none of the Major Changes they had sought by signaling they would accept the Technical Tweaks that Bipartisan Negotiators did agree to.

But after saying Sunday that Trump would accept the Deal, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders indicated Tuesday that Trump had not yet decided whether to Sign the Bill. The further delay in Congressional consideration of the Sanctions allows the White House to further Forestall that decision on whether to Veto the Legislation, knowing that Trump would almost surely be Overridden by Congress.

House Democrats had raised concerns about Corker's Resistance to the addition of North Korea Sanctions before Republican Leaders teed up a vote on Tuesday and expressed concern Monday that the GOP had pressed ahead regardless. "I don’t know who decided that, because Leaders McCarthy's office posted a bill online, everyone was on the same page," one House Democratic Aide said. "Because obviously they weren’t.”

In the Senate, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) reiterated the consensus position of his Caucus: that the House-passed Bill, with North Korea Sanctions included, should get sent to the White House before the August Recess. "Even as we debate other items here on the floor, we should not delay this legislation any longer," Schumer said.

Broadly speaking, Democrats are still Evaluating how to respond to Corker's Resistance. Corker's Democratic Counterpart on the Foreign Relations Panel, Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin, told Reporters that he has no issue with the House's North Korea language, which passed on a 419-1 vote in May.

Senate Democrats are unlikely to agree to quickly Strip out the North Korea Provisions from the Bill if that move only further traps the popular Sanctions Bill in Legislative Limbo, a Senior Aide said Wednesday.

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