By Patricia Zengerle
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Republican and Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives called on Wednesday for the right to review any effort by President Donald Trump to ease sanctions on Russia, as a growing number of lawmakers worried over past contacts between his aides and Moscow.
Three Republican and four Democratic members of the House introduced the “Russian Sanctions Review Act,” a companion bill to a measure introduced in the Senate by a separate group of Republicans and Democrats last week.
Prospects for both bills are uncertain for now, although that could change if the Trump administration were to move to ease sanctions imposed on Moscow.
Trump’s national security adviser, Michael Flynn, was forced out on Monday after revelations he had discussed the issue of sanctions with the Russian ambassador to Washington before Trump took office last month, and had then misrepresented to Vice President Mike Pence what he talked about. The affair has thrown a spotlight on U.S. relations with Moscow, which Trump has long said he would like to improve.
One sponsor of the House bill, Representative Steny Hoyer, the number two Democrat in the House, said the bill’s backers would discuss with House leaders whether they would allow the legislation to come up for a vote.
Trump’s fellow Republicans control majorities in both the Senate and House. To date, congressional leaders have not moved to advance any new legislation related to sanctions on Russia.
Both bills are modeled on a 2015 law that let Congress review the Iran nuclear agreement between the United States and other major powers negotiated by former President Barack Obama’s administration.
Among other things, the measures would require the Trump administration to submit to Congress a description of any proposed easing of sanctions on Russia, and to certify that Moscow had stopped supporting actions to undermine the government of Ukraine or cyber attacks on the United States or its people.
The loudest protests about contacts between Trump aides and Russia have come from Democrats, despite their insistence that investigating Russian influence on the U.S. election should not be a partisan issue. U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia sought to tilt the 2016 election in Trump’s favor by hacking and leaking Democratic emails.
The Republicans who co-sponsored the House bill did not attend a news conference about it on Wednesday.
Hoyer nonetheless said he expected the bills would be backed by enough lawmakers in both houses of Congress to withstand any potential veto by Trump.
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Frances Kerry)