As they were leaving town for the July 4th recess, the Senate passed a slightly modified Russian sanctions bill by a 98-2 margin that calls for reprisals for Russian meddling in the 2016 election. The bill had been forwarded to the House, where it faces an uncertain future, but on parliamentary grounds the House asked the Senate to revise three words so the bill would not run afoul of procedures that demand that bills dealing with revenue originate in the House of Representatives.
The bill takes the sanctions imposed by President Obama by executive order and turns the them into law. While the sanctions focus primarily on Russian oil and gas interests, they also include a requirement that Trump seek approval from Congress before easing sanctions on Russia. That requirement has drawn criticism from the White House and from some members of the House who would like to give the president latitude to ease sanctions if doing so would create an opportunity to work with Russia on a peaceful solution in Syria or other counter-terrorism efforts.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) urged his colleagues in the House to act quickly and decisively: “It’s critical, critical that Congress speak in a loud, clear and unified voice to President Putin. I want to put the House on notice. If they water down this bill, weaken the sanctions, add loopholes to the legislation, they will find stiff resistance here in the Senate.”
Because of the July 4th recess, the House will not take up the bill until they return in a few weeks – it’s unclear if they will pass it or what President Trump will do if it reaches his desk.
It is notable, however, that 98% of the members of the United States Senate seem disinclined to trust President Trump to make decisions in the best interest of the U.S. and average Americans when it comes to Russia.