from The Water's Edge

The Bid to Give Congress a Say on Any Move to Relax Sanctions on Russia

January 25, 2017

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I wrote on Monday that Donald Trump’s critics on Capitol Hill will have a hard time challenging his foreign policy choices. An early test of that claim could come in the form of a new bill that would require congressional approval before Trump could relax existing sanctions on Russia.

The legislation, which has yet to be introduced, is set to be sponsored by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), the Senate minority leader, and Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), the ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Schumer said on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos that two other Senate heavyweights, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), the chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), will cosponsor the bill.

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Trump has said he would consider lifting existing sanctions on Russia if the Kremlin agreed to cut its nuclear weapons. The wisdom of trading sanctions relief for arms cuts is debatable, and it’s an idea Trump may never pursue. But as things stand now, if he did he wouldn’t need Congress’s permission. The bill Schumer described would change that.

Without seeing the bill’s details it’s impossible to say precisely how it would constrain Trump or how hard those constraints might be to evade or break. But he isn’t likely to sign on to the idea in any event. No president wants to see Congress clip his wings on foreign policy, especially as his administration is just starting. And GOP lawmakers contemplating whether to support the bill will be reminded of one sobering fact: three out of four Republican voters think Trump has taken the right approach toward Russia.

So stay tuned.

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