House Votes to Keep Sanctions on Oligarch-Tied Firms

Russian metals magnate Oleg Deripaska attends Independence Day celebrations at Spaso House, the residence of the American Ambassador, in Moscow, Russia, on July 2, 2015. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File)

WASHINGTON (CN) – A bid by the Trump administration to lift sanctions imposed on companies tied to a Russian oligarch faced swift but likely impotent opposition Thursday from the House of Representatives.

Though Democrats rallied 136 Republicans to their side this afternoon, the measure is likely go nowhere as a similar resolution narrowly failed in the Senate on Wednesday.

The three companies the resolution mentions have ties to Oleg Deripaska, a billionaire Russian oligarch who is close with Russian President Vladimir Putin. After the businesses described steps they took to separate themselves from the billionaire, the Treasury Department announced in December it would be lifting sanctions.

Under federal law, Congress has 30 days after the administration announces its intent to lift the sanctions to approve a resolution blocking them. With the clock ticking on that deadline, the Senate’s failure to pass the resolution makes it unlikely Congress will be able to block the move to lift the sanctions.  

The Treasury Department’s move to lift sanctions on the companies would not impact the sanctions in place against Deripaska himself, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in a statement last week said the agency would “be vigilant” in watching to make sure Deripaska does not retake control of the companies after the sanctions are removed. 

“One of the goals of sanctions is to change behavior and the proposed delistings of companies that Derpaska will no longer control show that sanctions can result in positive change,” Mnuchin said in a statement last week.

Lawmakers critical of the administration’s decision have said it is not clear that the companies have sufficiently separated themselves from Deripaska, despite the agency’s claims.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said at a press conference Thursday the Treasury Department has not done enough to explain the decision to lift the sanctions on the companies. She criticized a briefing Mnuchin gave to lawmakers on the move, calling it the “the worst classified briefing I have seen from the Trump administration.”

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