House Easily Passes Sanction Package Against Russia, Iran, North Korea

The legislation would curb Trump's ability to lift or relax sanctions

The US Capitol Building
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The House on Tuesday voted overwhelmingly to pass legislation that would impose additional sanctions against Russia for its interference in the 2016 election and ongoing aggression in Ukraine and Syria.

The new bill, passed by a vote of 419 to 3, would significantly limit President Donald Trump's ability to relax or terminate sanctions despite pushback from White House officials who argue the measure impedes the president's executive authority to conduct foreign policy.

The legislation also contains new sanctions against Iran and North Korea, two adversaries the Trump administration has sought to punish for their ballistic missile testing.

Trump's reaction to the bill will be closely scrutinized, particularly if he chooses to veto it, which could prompt accusations that he is siding with President Vladimir Putin amid investigations into Russian election meddling and the Trump campaign's contacts with officials in Moscow.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders signaled on Sunday that Trump was likely to support the legislation. The president's newly appointed communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, took a more measured approach and said Trump had not yet made a decision.

Lawmakers from both parties have been eager to reprimand Russia for its intrusion in the election, defying attempts by the Trump administration to warm relations and relax sanctions against Moscow.

The bill would require Trump to submit a report to Congress on proposed actions that would "significantly alter" U.S. foreign policy on Russia, which encompasses sanctions relief and the reversal of the Obama administration's decision to seize two Russian diplomatic compounds in Maryland and New York. Congress would have at least 30 days to vote on any changes pursued by the administration.

The president could lift sanctions without congressional approval only if he provided evidence to lawmakers that the country in question made efforts to reverse its aggressive behavior.

The Senate passed a similar bill in a near-unanimous vote last month. The House version added sanctions against North Korea to the Senate package that solely included Russia and Iran.

The passage of the bill arrived one day after Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, appeared before the Senate Intelligence Committee in closed-door questioning regarding his contacts with Russian officials. Kushner adamantly denied charges of collusion.

Trump's son, Donald Trump Jr., and his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, are scheduled to testify in private before Senate committees later this week in connection to the Russia investigation.