Last week I talked about how America's actual President, Vladimir Putin, was getting upset with his satrap Donny over his failure to return two Russian compounds in the US back over to Moscow, both undoubtedly used for spying on America. The Russians were threatening unspecified "actions" to be taken, especially after the Senate overwhelmingly passed new Russian sanctions last month. Up until now, those sanctions have been stalled in the House.
But it looks like there's some congressional sausage getting made after all: Democrats will get their sanctions on Russia, not to mention review power over the Trump regime's new deals with Moscow in exchange for new sanctions on North Korea...as well as harsh new sanctions on Iran that will almost certainly sink President Obama's nuclear deal with Tehran.
The House and Senate have reached a deal on a bill that would impose new financial sanctions on Russia and allow Congress to review and veto any attempt by President Trump, or any other president, to independently ease those sanctions in the future. The Senate, looking to punish the Kremlin for meddling in last year’s presidential election, passed a version of the bill by a nearly unanimous margin in June, but it has been stalled in the House for weeks due to procedural issues, pressure from industry groups, and a White House bent on weakening the proposed congressional-review power. On Saturday, however, negotiators from the House and Senate ironed out a deal that did not include the changes the Trump administration wanted.
In addition to the measures against Russia, the bill includes new sanctions on Iran (over its ballistic-missile tests) and North Korea (over its nuclear program). It also somewhat eased the concerns of the oil-and-gas industry, which worried that American companies would face an impossible amount of red tape if they attempted to partner with Russian businesses.
The tweaked bill will likely receive a full vote on Tuesday and is expected to pass with wide bipartisan support, setting up a possible veto from the president. Trump has never seemed overly concerned about appearing friendly with Russia, though it’s worth pointing out that any presidential administration would object to an attempt by Congress to weaken its power to ease sanctions or deal with foreign powers. The New York Times reportsthat “two senior administration officials said they could not imagine Mr. Trump vetoing the legislation in the current political atmosphere,” but Trump’s ability to exceed the limit of imagination is already well-established at this point.
If Trump does veto the bill, it will be interesting to see if Republicans in Congress are willing to override him. Even if the bill become law, it remains possible that GOP lawmakers won’t challenge Trump’s possible attempts to ease the sanctions — though members of the House’s majority party won’t be the only ones who get to call for such a review. Minority Whip Steny Hoyer declared on Saturday that he was pleased with the legislation, which “ensures that both the majority and minority are able to exercise our oversight role over the administration’s implementation of sanctions.”
Democrats get what they want on Russia, Republicans get what they want on Iran, and everyone's happy with sanctions on Pyongyang for its ICBM testing. I'm more than a bit annoyed that Democrats are carving off yet another piece of Obama's legacy that they refuse to defend as payment to this illegitimate regime, but that's where we are right now.