The House of Representatives passed a bill on Thursday by a 424-8 margin that would suspend normal trade relations with both Russia and Belarus due to the war in Ukraine.
Among the few who voted against the bill was Republican Congressman Thomas Massie. Massie was much maligned for this vote, but the congressman explained on Twitter that it would also give President Joe Biden unilateral power to issue sanctions against almost any foreign person/entity at any time for virtually any reason at all. (Constitutionally, this is supposed to be the role of Congress.)
This was slipped into the Russian sanctions bill on pages 19,20,21. It gives the President broad authority to sanction virtually anyone, anywhere in the world, whether they are connected to Russia or not.
Interventionists at the State Department are doing the happy dance now. pic.twitter.com/eQO9ieVNQd
— Thomas Massie (@RepThomasMassie) March 17, 2022
The libertarian-leaning congressman from Kentucky is correct.
Buried on pages 19 and 20 of the Suspending Normal Trade Relations With Russia and Belarus Act is language that states, “The President may impose the sanctions described in subsection (b) with respect to any foreign person that the President determines, based on credible information” who is “responsible for or complicit in, or has directly or indirectly engaged in, serious human rights abuse; is a current or former government official, or a person acting for or on behalf of such an official, who is responsible for or complicit in, or has directly or indirectly engaged in ‘corruption, including the misappropriation of state assets; ‘ the expropriation of private assets for personal gain; corruption related to government contracts or the extraction of natural resources; or bribery; or the transfer or facilitation of the transfer of the proceeds of corruption.”
These metrics are both broad and open to wide interpretation. It sounds like Biden should slap sanctions on Saudi Arabia and his own son, Hunter Biden, for starters.
But the point is the president shouldn’t have this power and the vast majority of the House just voted to give it to him within a Russia sanctions bill that many likely didn’t bother to read thoroughly or at all.
As if this language wasn’t vague enough, page 21 of the bill notes that using human rights violations as a metric by which Biden can place sanctions on a foreign country was now “amended by striking ‘’violations of human rights’’ and inserting ‘‘corruption and human rights abuses.”
“Corruption” was added. Is the Biden administration going to sanction itself?
Republican Congressman Dan Bishop also voted against the sanctions bill, citing giving the Executive branch even more power as a primary reason:
I voted against the Russia trade bill yesterday as it is the latest example of Congress irresponsibly granting limitless power over to the Executive branch. It’s the exact same playbook we saw with two decades of war and the two-plus years of pandemic emergency response. https://t.co/IoPrsidsA5
— Rep. Dan Bishop (@RepDanBishop) March 18, 2022
Obviously, this isn’t the first federal bill to gain widespread support that contains legislation that is secondary to the reason members are supposedly voting for the bill.
But that is no excuse to go along with it. Kudos to the few who didn’t.