WASHINGTON – The House voted Thursday to continue sanctions on companies owned by Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch involved with interference in the 2016 U.S. election, which would block a controversial decision by President Donald Trump to remove the sanctions he put in place a year ago.
“This is an issue of America — whether or not we are going to hold accountable those who wish to threaten and undermine the values of the Unites States.” House Majority Leader Rep. Hoyer said during the House debate.
The Treasury Department chose to lift sanctions in December after reaching a deal with the Russian based companies to dilute Deripaska’s ownership and limit his control on voter shares. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that personal sanctions would still apply to Deripaska but that the corporation’s separation from the Kremlin ally justified the decision.
“Nothing has occurred in the Kremlin that warrants a relaxation of these sanctions,” House Financial Services Chairwoman Maxine Waters said.
On Wednesday, Republicans in the Senate narrowly shot down similar legislation, with a majority voting to support Treasury’s decision. With the two chambers disagreeing, the measure is stalled.
During the House debate, Democrats demanded more evidence that Deripaska no longer had influence over the companies.
“My colleagues and I have serious concerns about many issues that remain unanswered,” said Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., who said he wrote a letter to Treasury and received no response.
There have been accusations from both sides of the aisle that Trump is ignoring international violations in favor of economic benefit. Deripaska’s company hit by the sanctions, Rusal, is among the leading aluminum producers in the world. In the final House vote, 136 Republicans defected from their party in favor of the resolution, a significant bipartisan rebuke of the Trump administration’s foreign policy strategy.
Despite the GOP defections, Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas., argued that Republicans still maintain a hard line with Russia and said he takes a “backseat to no one” when it comes to confronting Russia.