Published: Sat, January 19, 2019
World Media | By Cesar Oliver

U.S. House backs sanctions on Russia's Rusal in symbolic vote

U.S. House backs sanctions on Russia's Rusal in symbolic vote

In a sharp rebuke to President Trump, more than 130 GOP lawmakers joined House Democrats Thursday to vote down a Treasury Department plan to lift Russian sanctions against companies controlled by a Russian oligarch who is pals with Vladimir Putin. A similar measure narrowly failed in the Senate this week, despite 11 Republicans breaking ranks to vote with Democrats.

A resolution aimed at forcing the U.S. Treasury to maintain sanctions on three Russian corporations linked to a pro-Kremlin "oligarch" fell three votes short in the U.S. Senate on January 16. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, who introduced the sanctions resolution, said he asked Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to give Congress until February 28 to review the deal, but that after yesterday's Senate vote failed "the Treasury Department chose to go forward".

Mnuchin has said that Deripaska, not the companies, was the intended target of USA sanctions imposed in April on associates of Putin over Moscow's interference in the election.

Later in the day, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer tried to have the Senate vote but Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked it.

"One of the goals of sanctions is to change behavior, and the proposed delistings of companies that Deripaska will no longer control show that sanctions can result in positive change", he said. They also ban American citizens from doing any business with those companies.

The Trump administration, which was heavily lobbied to lift the sanctions against Deripaska's companies, argued that it did so in December only after requiring Deripaska to dilute his ownership share of the world's No. 2 aluminum producer, Rusal, and limit his influence over that and two related companies.

He said it was "sad" to see House Democratic leadership embrace partisanship in the resolution "but partisan politics is the focus of the new House majority".

"In reality, the vote today was more proof that Senate Democrats are not serious about governing", Cramer said, calling the resolution "little more than a thinly veiled attempt to embarrass the administration".

The restructurings are a key condition for lifting the sanctions on the companies.

Under the administration plan, Deripaska himself would remain under sanction.

By contrast, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, voted against the measure and expressed relief that there weren't enough Republican defections to bring it to 60 votes. Deripaska accused Manafort and Rick Gates (Trump campaign's former deputy chairman) of disappearing with $26 million of his money.

"In response to recent press reports, En+ Group PLC confirms that, as part of the arrangements pursuant to which Oleg Deripaska's direct and indirect ownership interest in the company will be reduced to below 50%", the statement said. "I felt like he would continue to have control, and this is a bad guy", the Republican from Rogers said.

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