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House Expected To Pass Russia Sanctions Bill


In a time of deep division, Congress has found one thing it can agree on. Later today, the House is expected to pass a measure imposing sanctions on Russia with support from both Republicans and Democrats. President Trump has been equivocal about sanctions, but this past week, his press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said this on ABC's "This Week."


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS: The administration is supportive of being tough on Russia, particularly in putting these sanctions in place.

MARTIN: Congressman Will Hurd is on the line. He's a Republican from Texas, and he sits on the House intelligence committee. Congressman, thanks for being with us.

WILL HURD: Hey, thank you, Rachel, for having me.

MARTIN: Are you going to vote in favor of this measure?

HURD: I'm pretty confident I am. Russia is our adversary. They're not our ally. They were involved in trying to influence our elections. And I think this bill that we have put together in a bipartisan way is a good example of how, you know, we're telling our adversaries, if you try to undermine U.S. national security, there's going to be consequences. And this not only affects Russia. It affects North Korea and Iran, as well.

MARTIN: So as I understand it, these are the same sanctions that the Obama administration put in place before leaving office against Russia. Now these would become law. This legislation, though, would limit the executive branch's power somewhat. The president wouldn't be able to change these sanctions without congressional approval. Why was that put in there?

HURD: Well, you're correct. This bill, when passed and signed in law, is going to require a congressional review of presidential actions related to these sanctions if they're terminated, if the administration tries to waive this - the applicability to any individual person or to alter U.S. foreign policy in a significant way against U.S. sanctions. This is Congress standing up and saying, our Article One authorities are important. And Russia is our adversary. And there needs to be a whole of government response if this type of activity's going to change.

MARTIN: As recently as this weekend, new White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci said that President Trump still isn't sure - convinced - that Russia was behind the election meddling in 2016. So was this provision included in this measure because you do have concerns that the president would roll this back?

HURD: Well, I think what our - the new communications director for the White House also added was that there was a concern about people thinking that his victory was not, you know, properly won. You know, the Russians were very - it's very clear that the Russians were involved in attempting to manipulate our elections. But they did not impact the vote tabulating machines. That is also very clear.

I think, when it comes to Russia, every president for the last couple of decades has always sought to reset relations with Russia. And this is those of us in Congress that have been dealing with this issue for a long time saying, hey, they're our adversary. They're not our friends.

MARTIN: While I have you, I want to get your take on a couple of other things. The president has been critical of his attorney general, Jeff Sessions. There's some speculation he might be replaced. Do you think Attorney General Sessions should go?

HURD: Well, I think that decision's up for - up to the president and the attorney general on determining the future of that relationship. I do believe that it was the right move for Jeff Sessions to recuse himself from the Russia investigation because of his involvement in the campaign. But I'm sure this is going to play out over the next couple of days and weeks.

MARTIN: Which we should note, that's what the president has criticized Sessions for - for recusing himself from that investigation. Lastly, on health care, yet another vote happening today. Your colleagues in the Senate - Republicans there are expected to vote again on whether to push ahead with repealing the Affordable Care Act. It is unclear, at this point, though, what plan, if any, they're going to push forward with to replace it. Do you think that's the right move?

HURD: Well, as I've learned in my two and a half years in the House of Representatives, I try not to predict what the Senate is going to do. There is still a question on whether they have enough votes to move forward with this procedural motion that they're having today to move onto the legislation. So there's still a lot of questions out here. We do know one thing - that the, you know, the existing Obamacare, there's problems to it. Premiums are going up. But whatever we replace it with, we need to increase access to and decrease cost of health care.

MARTIN: Representative Will Hurd of Texas, a Republican from the state of Texas, thanks so much for your time this morning.

HURD: Thanks for having me on. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.