Political News

House considers adding North Korea to Russia sanctions bill

Posted July 14

House Republicans are considering combining a North Korean sanctions bill with the Senate's Russia sanctions legislation, an idea that drew sharp criticism from Democrats.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Friday he believed the North Korean sanctions bill, which passed nearly unanimously in the House in May, should be added to the Russia sanctions measure that passed the Senate one month ago.

House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce of California told CNN that the North Korea addition was one of several options still under consideration as House Republican leaders consider how to deal with the Senate's Russia sanctions bill.

"It's an idea, and obviously I don't find it unappetizing," Royce said. "I'm trying to do a bipartisan bill, so I'm totally deferential to the decision made by all of the parties at the table."

A GOP leadership aide confirmed to CNN that the idea was being considered, though no final decision has been made.

The addition of the House's North Korean sanctions bill would be yet another twist for the Senate's legislation that includes both Russia and Iranian sanctions, which passed 98-2 one month ago.

Multiple procedural issues between the House and Senate have stalled the bill in the House, prompting Democrats to accuse House Republican leaders of trying to delay the bill at the White House's urging.

New York Rep. Eliot Engel, the top Democrat on the House foreign affairs committee, charged that adding the North Korean sanctions legislation was "silly" and said, "It's clear to me they are trying to kill" the Senate's Russia sanctions bill.

Engel said House Republicans are also discussing other changes to the bill, which he says would complicate working with the Senate to clear the bill through both chambers, "It only plays into my fear that they are trying to throw everything in the kitchen sink at this bill to make it impossible to pass it," he said.

The House passed a North Korean sanctions bill in May 419-1, but the Senate has not yet taken up any North Korean sanctions measures. That means it would take time for the Senate -- mired in its health care fight -- to consider a new North Korean sanctions measure added to the Russia sanctions bill.

The Trump administration has pushed for changes to the Senate's Russia sanctions bill, particularly over the provision that gives Congress veto power if the White House eases sanctions on Russia. Energy companies are also raising concerns about several provisions.

Democrats say they're concerned the stalling tactics could allow the Trump administration to return two Russian compounds in New York and Maryland that the Obama administration seized in December.

Under secretary of State Tom Shannon will meet Monday with his Russian counterpart in Washington, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters this week, with the goal of discussing "so-called irritants" in the relationship.

"For anyone to expect us to understand and trust them, and give them back locations in which they were spying on us is simply absolutely ludicrous and against the best interest of the United States," Rep. Mike Quigley, an Illinois Democrat, told CNN Friday.

House Republicans continue to argue Democrats are part of the hold up because they are trying to change language that was added in the last Senate version that restricts who can raise an objection in Congress to how Russia is complying with sanctions.

Last month, the Senate had to pass a new version of the Russia sanctions bill to address a "blue slip" constitutional problem that means bills generating revenue must originate in the House.

But the Senate's tweak also changed a provision allowing any House member to force a vote on a resolution to disapprove of easing sanctions, raising new objections from House Democrats.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, Royce and Engel have been meeting this week to negotiate on a way forward for the Russia sanctions bill.

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