House Speaker Ryan backs swift action on Iran, Russia sanctions

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan said on Thursday he supported efforts to quickly act on legislation to impose new sanctions on Russia and Iran that passed the Senate nearly unanimously but has stalled in the House.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan introduces his new tax policy at the National Association of Manufacturers Summit in Washington, U.S., June 20, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

Republican Representative Ed Royce, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, “has indicated he wants to get moving on this quickly, and we want to honor that,” Ryan said at his weekly news conference.

The Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act, which also includes new sanctions against Russia, passed the Senate 98-2 last week, a vote that looked like it might complicate President Donald Trump’s desire for warmer relations with Moscow.

The measure must pass the House before it can be sent to Trump to sign into law or veto. The House parliamentarian found that the legislation violated a constitutional requirement that any bill affecting government revenues must originate in the House, something known as a “blue slip” violation.

Democrats said they were skeptical about the explanation, noting that previous “blue slip” issues had been resolved in a matter of minutes.

Kevin Brady, the Republican chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, told reporters he had sent the Senate a solution clearing the way for it to take the bill back, change it and move it forward.

Ben Cardin, ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told Reuters the change did not appear to substantively alter the legislation and that staff was reviewing it to determine how to move ahead.

Senior Senate Democratic aides said any bill involving sanctions or fines could be interpreted as affecting U.S. revenues.

Trump’s fellow Republicans hold a larger majority in the House than in the Senate.

Some lawmakers and congressional aides said the White House was concerned about a provision that would require Trump to obtain Congress’ approval before easing any sanctions on Russia.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urged Congress last week to ensure that any sanctions package would give Trump the flexibility to adjust sanctions.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer said the administration would not take a position before the bill advanced through the House. However, he acknowledged the White House needed to work with Congress on some areas of the measure.

Ryan said he did not yet know if it would go through the formal markup debate and amendment process. Democrats have said that process could delay the bill for months.

Asked if he supported the policy in the bill, Ryan said he supported sanctions.

Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Leslie Adler