WH to Lobby House GOP on Softening Senate Bill on Moscow Sanctions

Before passing the combined Russia-Iran measure, the chamber also attached a bipartisan amendment signaling support for NATO’s Article 5 – which Trump earlier this month notably declined to endorse in Brussels – by a unanimous vote.The bill would also impose sanctions on Iran with regard to its ballistic missile activities that are not linked to the nuclear agreement the Arab country signed with the USA and other countries. Indeed, the bill requires a congressional review if the president attempts to ease or end sanctions against Moscow, according to the Associated Press. Republicans and Democrats have said they doubt Trump would veto the bill.The amendment to the underlying Iran sanctions bill maintains and expands sanctions against the government of Russian Federation in response to the violation of the territorial integrity of the Ukraine and Crimea, its brazen cyber-attacks and interference in elections, and its continuing aggression in Syria, said officials. The legislation, which was passed by a 98-2 vote, seeks to punish Russian Federation for its meddling in the U.S. election and actions in Ukraine and Syria. Broad new sanctions would be imposed on Russia’s mining, metals, shipping and railways sectors.Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Rand Paul, R-Ky., voted against the sanctions package.Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown, one of the Senate bill’s cosponsors, told reporters on Wednesday that the White House was already lobbying against the measure, Business Insider reported.The administration said Russia had been using the facilities for intelligence gathering; when they were shuttered, 35 Russian operatives were also expelled from the country.Asked about the sanctions during a Senate foreign relations committee hearing on Tuesday, Secretary of state Rex Tillerson called the amendment “ill-timed” and said the administration would like to have “the flexibility to turn that heat up” on Russian Federation.The Russia amendment was part of a larger measure that targets Iran for sanctions over its ballistic missile program, human rights violations, and other issues.The steps come as special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating any links or collusion between the president’s associates and Russian officials. The White House hasn’t weighed in on the legislation but says it’s “committed” to the existing Russian sanctions.Finally, it provides that no sanctions can be lifted by the President without Congressional review.Today’s vote was the most significant blow the Republican President has received from the Republican Congress.