To say Donald Trump brings out extreme emotions, anger, hostility, really bad language, and wildly differing opinions is a gross understatement. Because I know this, I am never this political on my blog. Alright, I’ll scale that back to, rarely. I’m rarely this political on my blog and most certainly not 3 days in a row. But into the muck I am going to slog because some of what I talked about and wished for yesterday (Cooler Heads May Still Prevail) started to happen today!
While old school (and by old, I mean those with an average age of 81) Republican Senators began the first day of confirmation hearings for Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, Trump’s nominee for Attorney General, there was a very important piece of bi-partisan legislation introduced on the Hill: “Countering Russian Hostilities Act of 2017.”
“We have been attacked by Russia. That’s no longer up to any debate,” said Sen. Ben Cardin (D., Md.), one of the co-sponsors of the bill. “It cannot be business as usual.”
The measure would:
- Impose Visa bans and freeze the assets of “those who undermine the cyber security of public or private infrastructure and democratic institutions”
- Impose sanctions on transactions with the Russian defense and intelligence sectors, potentially making it harder for banks to do business with the Russian military and spy agencies
- Solidify Obama-era sanctions on Russia, imposed in response to the country’s election meddling and its 2014 annexation of Crimea – meaning, no action could be taken that implies recognition of Russian sovereignty over Crimea.
- Authorize $100 million for the State Department and other U.S. agencies to fight Russian propaganda, including by supporting programs to counter “fake news”
Because all sanctions bills typically contain a “national security waiver,” even if the measure receives enough votes to become law, there is little Congress could do to force the Trump administration to implement the new sanctions.
According to the Legal Information Institute, in order for the President to enact a national security waiver of application of sanctions with respect to a foreign financial institution:
- The President must declare that he has determined that the waiver is in the national security interest of the United States; and
- He must submit to the appropriate Congressional Committees a report on the determination and the reasons for the determination.
What gives me hope is that, in a Senate comprised of 52 Republicans and 48 Democrats, 4 of the 5 Republican Senators I named yesterday, as imperative to keeping the GOP and Trump’s agenda in check:
- Senator John McCain (R) Arizona
- Senator Lindsey Graham (R) South Carolina
- Senator Marco Rubio (R) Florida
- Senator Ben Sasse (R) Nebraska
stepped across the aisle before the inauguration to serve notice that:
- The laws of our country are to be followed by all, especially the President of the United States and those he appoints or nominates to serve in his administration;
- That countries that act against the United States are going to be served with sanctions by Congress;
- That the President of the United States is bound by honor and oath to uphold and enforce those sanctions.
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