After recruiting Trump, the KGB and Moscow have clearly also managed to make all House Republicans their puppets, because the Senate bill that passed last week and slapped new sanctions on Russia (but really was meant to block the production on the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia and which Germany, Austria and France all said is a provocation by the US and would prompt retaliation) just hit a major stumbling block in the House.
At least that's our interpretation of tomorrow's CNN "hot take."
Shortly after House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady of Texas said that House leaders concluded that the legislation, S. 722, violated the origination clause of the Constitution, which requires legislation that raises revenue to originate in the House, and would require amendments, Democrats immediately accused the GOP of delaying tactics and "covering" for the Russian agent in the White House.
“House Republicans are considering using a procedural excuse to hide what they’re really doing: covering for a president who has been far too soft on Russia,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said in a statement. “The Senate passed this bill on a strong bipartisan vote of 98-2, sending a powerful message to President Trump that he should not lift sanctions on Russia.”
And, if the House does pass it, a huge diplomatic scandal would erupt only not between the US and Russia, but Washington and its European allies who have slammed this latest intervention by the US in European affairs... a scandal which the Democrats would also promptly blame on Trump.
That said, the bill may still pass: Brady pushed back against Democrat suggestions that House GOP leadership is trying to delay the bill, stressing that he thought the Senate legislation was sound policy.
"I strongly support sanctions against Iran and Russia to hold them accountable. We were willing to work with the Senate throughout the process, but the final bill and final language violated the origination clause in the Constitution," Brady told reporters on Tuesday. "I am confident working with the Senate and Chairman [Ed] Royce that we can move this legislation forward. So at the end of the day, this isn’t a policy issue, it’s not a partisan issue, it is a Constitutional issue that we will address."
Or maybe not.
AshLee Strong, a spokeswoman for House Speaker Paul Ryan said that "the Senate bill cannot be considered in the House its current form" according to The Hill. She added that Ryan strongly supports sanctions and "we will determine the next course of action after speaking with our Senate colleagues." An aide for Sen. Bob Corker who was deeply involved in negotiating the Senate deal, said that the House has raised "concerns with one of the final provisions" of the bill.
"The House has always, in a bipartisan way, followed protocol to avoid Origination Clause violations. It's the Constitution. It's pretty straightforward," a senior GOP aide added.
And yet, despite the clear procedural issues, Democrats would just not let it go and warned that Republicans are trying to delay the bill amid pushback from the Trump administration.
As usual, Schumer lambasted the move, arguing they're using the procedural roadblock to cover for Trump, "who has been far too soft on Russia."
"Responding to Russia’s assault on our democracy should be a bipartisan issue that unites both Democrats and Republicans in the House and the Senate. The House Republicans need to pass this bill as quickly as possible," he said.
Rep. Eliot Engel, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, added that Republicans could easily work around the violation by introducing an indention House bill. “[But] I predict this isn't the last excuse we'll hear for trying to slow this bill's momentum, but make no mistake, anything short of an up-or-down vote on this tough sanctions package is an attempt to let Russia off the hook," he said.
Another Democrat, Sen. Ben Cardin stressed that he didn't think the Senate bill actually had a "blue slip" issue, but echoed Engel noting they it could be "easily corrected" by using a House bill.
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Under the bill which was voted 98-2 in the Senate, new Russia sanctions could be levied on entities engaging in “malicious cyber activity", perhaps like those which gave Republican Handel the victory in Georgia. It would require the administration to explain any moves to ease or lift sanctions, and create a new mechanism for Congress to review and block any such effort according to Bloomberg.
And, of course, the most controversial issue, the legislation would also put into law penalties that were imposed by the Obama administration on some Russian energy projects, a move in 2014 that came in response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine. It is over this part of the legislation that America's European "allies" have threatened the US with retaliation.
The White House has said it is committed to existing sanctions and hasn’t taken a formal position on the Senate bill.