House Rebukes Russia in Package of Bipartisan Bills

(Map via CIA World Factbook)

WASHINGTON (CN) – In rare bipartisan fashion, Congress overwhelmingly approved four measures critical of Russia on Tuesday, less than 24 hours after President Vladimir Putin moved more troops into the long-annexed Ukrainian territory of Crimea.

With names like the Kremlin Act, the measures target Putin’s recent actions throughout Europe and the Middle East, stretching back to Russia’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. election and the early days of the 2014 annexation.

“Every American has the right to a secure democracy,” said Representative Val Demings, a Florida Democrat who co-wrote the Putin Transparency Act.

Demings was harshly critical of the monetary and political influence wielded by Putin and his allies.

“We must investigate and expose any illegal funding which supports illegal attacks on America,” she said. “This is a first step to show the rights of Americans matter, not dark money.”

Representative Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., co-sponsored a number of the bills and thanked the House for coming together in an otherwise brutally divided political atmosphere.

“We are united in fighting Russian oppression,” Kinzinger said. 

Just a day earlier the Russian news agency TASS quoted the Kremlin’s Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu as announcing that Russia moved additional troops into Crimea to ensure the “protection of the peninsula’s territory and Russia’s interests in the Black Sea.

While the House today is controlled by Democrats, all of Congress was in Republican hands last year when it passed a defense authorization that purported to keep the Pentagon from recognizing Crimea as part of Russia. 

President Donald Trump nevertheless signaled at the signing ceremony of that 2018 bill that he would not follow the directives, believing them to encroach on executive power.

“My administration will treat these provisions consistent with the president’s exclusive constitutional authorities as commander in chief and as the sole representative of the nation in foreign affairs, including the authorities to determine the terms upon which recognition is given to foreign sovereigns, to receive foreign representatives, and to conduct the nation’s diplomacy,” the president had said.

Trump has for years spoken admiringly of Putin, including saying he trusted the ex-KGB spy over U.S. intelligence agencies when it comes to Russian interference in the U.S. and abroad. As recently as last week, however, Trump did extend sanctions against Russia first put in place after the 2014 Crimea annexation by then-President Barack Obama.

Alexei Pushkov, a senior deputy in Russia’s upper-house Federation Council, took to Twitter shortly after the sanctions were extended.

“It’s not fitting of Trump to be copying Obama. But he’s copying him,” Pushkov tweeted.

In the Senate, even bipartisan efforts to specifically target Russian influence in the U.S. have floundered. 

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Democratic Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey were among the co-sponsors of a 2018 bill titled Defending American Security From Kremlin Aggression. 

Graham submitted the bill again last month after the first effort failed to get even a committee vote.

“Our goal is to change the status quo and impose meaningful sanctions and measures against Putin’s Russia,” Graham said in a statement along with the 2019 version of the bill. “He should cease and desist meddling in the U.S. electoral process, halt cyberattacks on American infrastructure, remove Russia from Ukraine, and stop efforts to create chaos in Syria.”

The White House did not return requests for comment.

In the House, the Kremlin bill is an acronym for Keeping Russian Entrapments Minimal and Limiting Intelligence Networks Act. Official tallies of the voice vote for that bill and the Vladimir Putin Transparency Act are not yet available.

The other bills Tuesday were the Crimea Annexation Non-recognition Act, which was passed 427-1, and Calling for accountability and justice for the assassination of Boris Nemtsov, which passed 416-1.

Ahead of the votes, Representative Gerry Connolly, D-Va., emphasized in a speech on the House floor that “Putin’s forcible and illegal annexation of Crimea” marked the first time since World War II that one European country seized territory from another.

Connolly, who co-wrote the Crimea Annexation Act, questioned: “Who’s next? Moldova? Georgia? The Baltic states?”

%d bloggers like this: