Friday, June 16, 2017
On Thursday, the Senate voted 98-2 in favor of a bill that legislatively formalizes sanctions against Russia and prevents the President from lifting those sanctions without congressional approval.
The bill was introduced as an amendment to a pending bill about sanctions against Iran. You can read the whole amendment here if you’re into that, or just a few highlights below.
Still just a bill, but this is the strongest action by either House of Congress so far against Russian interference in U.S. elections. It guards against the possibility that Trump has somehow been co-opted by Putin in exchange for easing U.S. sanctions, without openly finding such a relationship. Predictions vary as to whether the House will take it up.
Title II – SANCTIONS WITH RESPECT TO THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION AND COMBATING TERRORISM AND ILLICIT FINANCING
Sec. 211. Findings.
(6) On January 6, 2017, an assessment of the United States intelligence community entitled, “Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent U.S. Elections” stated, “Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the United States presidential election.” The assessment warns that “Moscow will apply lessons learned from its Putin-ordered campaign aimed at the U.S. Presidential election to future influence efforts worldwide, including against U.S. allies and the election processes”.
Sec. 212. Sense of Congress.
It is the sense of Congress that the President -
(1) should engage to the fullest extent possible with partner governments with regard to closing loopholes, including the allowances of extended prepayment for the delivery of goods and commodities and other loopholes, in multilateral and unilateral restrictive measures against the Russian Federation, with the aim of maximizing alignment of those measures; and
(2) should increase efforts to vigorously enforce compliance with sanctions in place as of the date of the enactment of this Act with respect to the Russian Federation in response to the crisis in eastern Ukraine, cyber intrusions and attacks, and human rights violators in the Russian Federation.
Sec. 215. Short Title.
Th[is] part may be cited as the “Russia Sanctions Review Act of 2017”.
Sec. 216. Congressional Review of Certain Actions Relating to Sanctions Imposed with Respect to the Russian Federation.
(a) Submission to Congress of Proposed Action. –
(1) In General. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, before taking any action described in paragraph (2) the President shall submit to the appropriate congressional committees and leadership a report that describes the proposed action and the reasons for that action.
(2) Actions Described. –
(A) In General. – An Action described in this paragraph is –
(i) an action to terminate the application of any sanctions described in subparagraph (B); …
(B) Sanctions Described. – The sanctions described in this subparagraph are –
(i) sanctions provided for under –
(I) this title or any provision of law amended by this title …
(II) the Support for the Sovereignty, Integrity, Democracy, and Economic Stability of Ukraine Act of 2014 …; or
(III) the Ukraine Freedom Support Act of 2014 …; and
(ii) the prohibition on access to the properties of the Government of the Russian Federation located in Maryland and New York that the President ordered vacated on December 29, 2016. …
(b) Period for Review by Congress. –
(3) Limitation on Actions During Initial Congressional Review Period. – Notwithstanding any other provision of law, during the [30-day] period for congressional review provided for under paragraph (1) …, the President may not take that action unless a joint resolution of approval with respect to that action is enacted ...
(4) Limitation on Actions During Presidential Consideration of a Joint Resolution of Disapproval. – Notwithstanding any other provision of law, if a joint resolution of disapproval relating to a report … passes both Houses of Congress … the President may not take that action for a period of 12 calendar days after the date of passage of the joint resolution of disapproval.
(5) Limitation on Actions During Congressional Reconsideration of a Joint Resolution of Disapproval. – Notwithstanding any other provision of law, if a joint resolution of disapproval relating to a report … passes both Houses of Congress … and the President vetoes the joint resolution, the President may not take that action for a period of 10 calendar days after the date of the President’s veto.
(6) Effect of Enactment of a Joint Resolution of Disapproval. – Notwithstanding any other provision of law, if a joint resolution of disapproval relating to a report … is enacted … the President may not take that action.
Sec. 224. Imposition of Sanctions with Respect to Activities of the Russian Federation Undermining Cybersecurity.
(a) In General. – On and after the date that is 60 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the President shall –
(1) impose the sanctions described in subsection (b) with respect to any person that the President determines –
(A) knowingly engages in significant activities undermining cybersecurity against any person, including a democratic institution, or government on behalf of the Government of the Russian Federation; or
(B) is owned or controlled by, or acts or purports to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, a person described in subparagraph (A) …
Sec. 231. Imposition of Sanctions with Respect to Persons Engaging in Transactions with the Intelligence or Defense Sectors of the Government of the Russian Federation.
(a) In General. – On and after the date that is 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the President shall impose … sanctions … with respect to a person the President determines knowingly, on or after such date of enactment, engages in a significant transaction with a person that is part of, or operates for or on behalf of, the defense or intelligence sectors of the Government of the Russian Federation ….
Other activities that would trigger sanctions include transacting with Russia for the development of pipelines or providing support to Syria to develop weapons capabilities. The sanctions are described in Section 235 and include refusing Export-Import Bank assistance for exports or denying licenses to export goods or technology to the sanctioned person; blocking bank loans; prohibiting government procurement, foreign exchange transactions, and other financial transactions to the sanctioned person; and prohibiting property transactions in which the sanctioned person has an interest.