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House approves sanctions on Iran, North Korea, Russia

By Danielle Haynes
House approves sanctions on Iran, North Korea, Russia
The House on Monday voted 419-3 to sanction Iran, North Korea and Russia. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

July 25 (UPI) -- The House of Representatives on Tuesday voted to toughen sanctions on Iran, North Korea and Russia in legislation expected also to be backed by the Senate.

The House voted 419-3 to pass the bill, a version of which had previously been approved by the Senate. The Senate bill -- which only sanctioned Russia -- was nullified under the constitutional provision that legislation raising revenue must originate in the House.

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When House leadership took up the bill, they added additional sanctions on Iran and North Korea.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said it was Congress' job to hold the countries accountable for undermining the United States and disrupting global stability.

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"The bill we just passed with overwhelming bipartisan support is one of the most expansive sanctions packages in history," he said in a statement. "It tightens the screws on our most dangerous adversaries in order to keep Americans safe."

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The original legislation was drafted in response to what the U.S. intelligence community has said was a wide-ranging plan by Russian agents at the direction of President Vladimir Putin to interject Russian interests into the U.S. presidential election.

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What followed were Internet hacks of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the Democratic National Committee and high-ranking officials in the Hillary Clinton campaign, most notably campaign chairman John Podesta. The Russians then systematically leaked sensitive information to maximize the damage to Clinton and the Democrats, intelligence agents say.

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Though at first he dismissed the accusations against Russian hacking as conjecture, President Donald Trump eventually said he agreed with the intelligence findings. He has called the subsequent investigations into the matter, and whether any members of his campaign colluded with the Russians in that effort, a "witch hunt."

The Senate is expected to take up the matter sometime next month. If the legislation produces the broad bipartisan support leaders from both parties predicted, it would force Trump to sign it or face the political embarrassment of Congress overriding his veto.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has lobbied against Congress codifying sanctions, saying the administration needed the "flexibility" of strengthening or easing sanctions depending on the status of international deliberations over Ukraine, Syria and other issues.

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The administration has at times demonstrated a willingness to take a tougher tack against Russia via sanctions.

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In June, the Treasury Department added 38 more Russian officials and entities to its list of individuals banned from doing business in the United States, a strategy first employed by the Obama administration in an effort to directly pressure Putin's inner circle. The Trump administration's increased Russia sanctions came after continued violence in eastern Ukraine, where Russian-backed separatists have waged a guerrilla campaign against the Ukrainian military since 2014.

Sanctions on North Korea stem from an intercontinental ballistic missile test on July 4, and on Iran for a variety of threats, including state-sponsored terrorism.

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Eric DuVall contributed to this report.

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