White House says it supports Russia sanctions Bill

US Republicans and Democrats have reached agreement on legislation that allows new sanctions against Russia, Iran and North Korea, leading congressional Democrats said on Saturday.

WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) - The Trump administration "supports" the current version of a Bill to sanction Russia for its actions during last year's elections that could soon land on President Donald Trump's desk for a signature, the White House press secretary said yesterday.

Mrs Sarah Huckabee Sanders' comments came after Republican and Democratic leaders in the House reached a tentative deal to move ahead this week on a measure that, among other things, would prevent the President from acting unilaterally to remove sanctions on Russia.

The White House had argued earlier that it needs flexibility to adjust economic sanctions against Moscow.

"The original piece of legislation was poorly written but we were able to work with the House and Senate. And the administration is happy with the ability to do that and make those changes that were necessary," Mrs Sanders said yesterday on ABC's This Week. "We support where the legislation is now."

Still, Mrs Sanders, appointed to her post last Friday after the resignation of Mr Sean Spicer, stopped short of confirming that Mr Trump would sign the Bill as written.

Mr Anthony Scaramucci, the new White House communications director, said on CBS' Face The Nation programme that "I don't know the answer to whether the President will sign it".

If the President were to veto the Bill, "we will override his veto", Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said on Fox News Sunday.

On the same show, Republican Senator John Thune of South Dakota predicted that "in the end, the administration will come to the conclusion that an overwhelming majority of Congress has" that Russia should face sanctions for meddling in the election.

The apparent agreement to fix procedural concerns, add sanctions against North Korea, and modify provisions that would restrict the participation of US energy companies in some international projects, clears the way for a House vote next week.

A version of the Bill released by House Republican leaders includes changes sought since the Senate passed legislation last month that would prohibit US businesses from working on or supporting energy projects that include any participation by Russian companies, even outside Russia's borders.

The new version would also set a threshold for Russian involvement, applying that restriction to projects where sanctioned Russian entities have at least a 33 per cent interest.

A separate procedural impasse would be resolved by allowing leaders from both the majority and minority parties in the Senate or House to force their respective chamber to consider an objection to White House action on sanctions. The original Bill allowed any member of Congress in either chamber to force consideration of sanctions waivers.

Senators can still introduce resolutions, with leadership approval.

The legislation comes after US intelligence agencies concluded that Russia sought to influence the American presidential election last year.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 24, 2017, with the headline 'White House says it supports Russia sanctions Bill'. Print Edition | Subscribe