- As Delivered –

Washington—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today delivered the following remarks in the House of Representatives in support of a measure to block the Trump Administration from lifting sanctions on three corporations tied to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska (H.J.Res.30):

“It’s regrettable that we’re in this situation. It’s the result of the Trump Administration again trying to make an end run around Congress on an issue as important as Russia sanctions. 

“On December 19th of last year, the Treasury Department notified Congress of its intention to relax sanctions against three corporations tied to Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch and close associate of Vladimir Putin. The Trump Administration may have a perfectly legitimate reason for easing those sanctions. But the reason we’re on the floor today is that we just don’t know. And under the law, we have very little time left to get the answers we need.

“The sanctions we’re dealing with today were imposed under CAATSA—the Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act—the bill we passed a year and a half ago to, among other things, slap sanctions on Vladimir Putin’s cronies.

“The law is written so that Congress would be able to step in if we thought any administration could be making a mistake in waiving or easing sanctions. The Republican majority at the time wrote strict and complex provisions for exercising that oversight, allowing only 30 days to pass a measure that could reverse such a decision.

"Again: the Trump Administration announced its plans to ease these sanctions on December 19th. Thirty days ago. In the middle of the holidays. Just before the President shut the government down. At the end of the last Congress, and before committees in this Congress have had a chance to organize and look into this very serious issue. This timing leads me to believe that the Administration was trying to jam this decision through so Congress would not be able to act.

“We asked the Administration to explain this decision. Their answers were frankly inadequate. We asked the Administration to pump the brakes on easing these sanctions, so we could review the decision further. They simply wouldn’t.

“So, with that 30-day window closing, we’re now forced to bring this measure to the floor to try to block the decision. It’s too bad, really. I’d rather the Administration respected Congress enough to allow us the time to address our concerns. And again, the rules for this were put into effect by the Republican majority in the last Congress, and they’re good rules. I’d rather they hadn’t dropped this announcement when they did, that’s the White House, so that our committees could hold hearings and do our work the way we want to. 

“But with the threat that Russia poses to the United States, to our friends and allies, to democracy around the world, Congress cannot just look the other way when the Administration rushes a decision like this. There are too many open questions about whether Deripaska will still control the companies that these sanctions address.

“So, we need to move this resolution of disapproval before the clock runs out. And I ask all members on both sides of the aisle to support it today.”

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