WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump supports imposing tougher new sanctions on Russia, Iran and North Korea, the White House has stressed, a day after the House of Representatives voted in favour of a bill that seeks to limit his ability to lift many of the sanctions on Moscow.
The House voted 419-3 to pass the bill that seeks to punish Russia for allegedly meddling in the 2016 presidential elections.
Other than Russia, the legislation also seeks to make Iran pay for its "continued support of terrorism", and includes provisions to curb North Korea's nuclear programme.The bill has in recent weeks attracted controversy.
The Trump administration opposes the legislation as it requires congressional approval for the president to lift previous sanctions on Russia, according to US media reports.
However, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters: "The White House, the president, and the entire administration strongly support sanctions against Russia, Iran, and North Korea."
The bill now heads to the Senate before it can be sent to the White House for Trump to sign it into a law. If enacted, it could put strain on Trump's ability to improve ties with Russia, which he has vocally pursued, but has been restrained by the allegations that his associates had contacts with Russian officials during the election campaign.
Trump has denied any collusion of his associates with Moscow, and termed the Russian investigation "a witch hunt". Congressman Ed Royce, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer have urged the Senate to pass the legislation without delay.
"Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed, nearly unanimously, a sanctions bill that was a product of bicameral, bipartisan negotiations and includes strong sanctions against Russia, Iran, North Korea. The Senate must act quickly on the legislation from the House," Schumer said.
Senator and chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee Bob Corker have indicated he plans to strip out a section of this package that relates to North Korea, he said, calling it "yet another delay" by Republicans to prevent this bill from landing on the Trump's desk before "we leave for the recess."
Mark Warner, vice chairman of the Senate select committee on Intelligence, said the bipartisan congressional support for increased sanctions on Russia sends a message to the Kremlin that attacks on the American democracy will not be tolerated.
"I expect this bill will pass the Senate in short order. At that point, it is incumbent upon President Trump to immediately sign this legislation into law, or risk endorsing Moscow's interference in future elections," he said.
"We must also make clear to Iran and North Korea that they will be held accountable for their actions," Warner said. Later, Corker announced a path forward on the bill.
"Following very productive discussions with leader McCarthy, I am glad to announce that we have reached an agreement that will allow us to send sanctions legislation to the president's desk," he said.
"The Senate will move to approve the Iran and Russia sanctions it originally passed six weeks ago, as well as the North Korea sanctions developed by the House," he added.