(Update Aug. 2, 2017, 10:35 a.m.: The president signed the bill on Wednesday morning.)
The White House said on Tuesday that while President Donald Trump has not yet received the Russian sanctions bill from the House, after reviewing an early draft of the legislation, he plans to sign it.
The bill, passed on a 419-3 vote on Friday, will strengthen sanctions already in place against Russian businesses and individuals – many whom are part of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle.
The legislation will also limit the president’s ability to lift the sanctions against Russia on his own.
Here’s a look at what the United States sanctions bill does and Russia’s response to the bill.
First, why are there sanctions against Russia?
In March 2014, Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine. Crimea was once part of the Soviet Union. Many believed Putin authorized the annexation as part of a plan to curb western presence in Eastern Europe up to Russia’s border. Others say it was a point of national pride for Putin, who said after the Crimean Peninsula was taken that Crimea was the “spiritual source” of the Russian state.
After the Russian military action, U.S. President Barack Obama and leaders of countries in the European Union came together to issue economic sanctions on Russian businesses and individuals close to Putin.
A second set of sanctions from the United States came in December 2016 when President Obama expelled 35 Russian diplomats and closed two Russian compounds in the United States after intelligence services uncovered evidence that Russia backed a cyber attack aimed at disrupting the 2016 presidential election.
Why a bill?
The bill passed by the House last week would essentially turn those existing sanctions into law. If the bill is signed by the president, the law will make it more difficult for the sanctions to be dropped. Congress, not the president, would have the authority to make changes to the sanctions.
Under the proposed law, Congress must approve any request from the president to ease the financial penalties detailed in the bill. In order to waive individual sanctions, the president would need to submit a report to Congress outlining why it is in the national interest to take that action.
What does the bill do?
In addition to the sanctions already in place, the bill would add new sanctions aimed at making it more difficult for the country to export weapons. It would also allow the U.S. to levy sanctions against companies working on Russia’s energy export pipelines.
An important part of the bill and the section that could give Trump pause limits the president’s ability to change any of the sanctions placed on Russia.
The bill also includes sanctions against Iran and North Korea for their ongoing work to develop nuclear missiles.
What was Russia’s response?
After the bill passed the house Friday, the Russian foreign ministry said that the United States’ diplomatic and technical staff – which includes U.S. diplomats and Russian nationals who work for the U.S. government – would have to be reduced to a total of 455. That is the same number of Russian diplomats and staff in the United States.
The cuts are to take effect on September 1.
In addition to cuts in personnel, the Russian government seized two American diplomatic properties.
Sources: The Associated Press; The BBC; Vox; The Los Angeles Times