Washington, July 26 (IANS) The US House of Representatives has overwhelmingly approved a new sweeping package of sanctions against Russia for its interference in the 2016 US presidential election, despite President Donald Trump objecting to the legislation.
Congressmen voted 419-3 to pass the bill on Tuesday, with three Republicans — Justin Amash, Jimmy Duncan and Thomas Massie — voting against the bill. The bill gives Congress the power to block any effort by the White House to weaken sanctions on Russia, offering a direct challenge to President Donald Trump’s authority, CNN reported.
The overwhelming support for the bill, which was voted under special procedures to pass with a two-thirds majority, forces Trump to obtain lawmakers’ permission before easing any sanctions on Moscow.
The measure targets key Russian officials in retaliation for Moscow’s alleged interference in the 2016 presidential election. It also includes sanctions against Iran and North Korea in response to their weapons programmes.
The legislation needs to be passed through the Senate before it can be sent on to the President to be signed. The White House said it was reviewing the bill, and it was unclear whether Trump will veto it.
“While the President supports tough sanctions on North Korea, Iran and Russia, the White House is reviewing the House legislation and awaits a final legislative package for the President’s desk,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said.
“He has no intention of getting rid of them, but he wants to make sure we get the best deal for the American people possible,” she said.
“Congress does not have the best record on that… He’s going to study that legislation and see what the final product looks like,” Sanders said.
Representative Ed Royce, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said: “Left unchecked, Russia is sure to continue its aggression.”
He said it was “well past time that we forcefully respond” to the conduct of all three countries, the New York Times reported.
Senate Democrats cheered the deal whereas some key Republicans were more reserved. Representative Eliot L. Engel of New York, the top Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee, called the bill “a strong, direct response to Vladimir Putin’s efforts to undermine American democracy”.
Engel said he hoped the measure would not face further delays in the Senate, a prospect that Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the minority leader, seemed eager to escape.
“It’s critical the Senate act promptly on this legislation,” Schumer said, calling for passage before lawmakers leave for summer recess.
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