A senior House Republican on Tuesday put the onus on Senate lawmakers to fix "a constitutional violation" that is delaying Congress from final passage of a sanctions bill targeting Iran and Russia.
A veto-proof majority of senators voted in favor of a far-reaching sanctions package, following a flurry of negotiations over the details pertaining to Russia. But Rep. Kevin Brady, who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, said the last-minute talks resulted in the inclusion of provisions that raise revenue for the United States and thus violate a constitutional requirement that revenue bills originate in the House.
"The Constitution is pretty clear: Revenue measures have to start in the House," the Texas Republican told reporters on Tuesday. "I think the Senate can move pretty quickly to correct that provision and send it back to us. That'd be my preference."
Brady said the procedural error was discovered "in consultation with the House Parliamentarian," who monitors compliance with House rules. Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., concurred.
"The Senate bill cannot be considered in the House its current form," AshLee Strong, national press secretary for the speaker, told the Washington Examiner. "The speaker has been a strong proponent of sanctions and believes we need to do more to hold Iran and Russia accountable. We will determine the next course of action after speaking with our Senate colleagues."
President Trump's team likely will use the delay as an opportunity to lobby for other changes to the bill. Secretary of State signaled opposition to the Senate version of the sanctions last week, citing the fact that the legislation doesn't give President Trump the customary discretion over imposing or lifting the sanctions.
Congressional Democrats, who are particularly eager to impose sanctions on Russia following the 2016 cyber attacks against the Democratic party, accused Republicans of using the Constitution as a fig leaf to cover a delay of the bill.
"This is nothing but a delay tactic and the public shouldn't be fooled by complex-sounding parliamentary procedure," New York Rep. Eliot Engel, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. "If Republican leadership says we can't act on the Senate bill, here's an easy solution: Let's introduce an identical House version and we can vote on that instead."
Brady maintained that the Senate should send a sanctions bill "that has no revenue provisions" back to the House.
"This is not a policy issue; it's not a partisan issue; it's a constitutional issue that we will address in a positive way," he said. "I think the policies are very strong and very positive. But we are going to follow the Constitution, as we would with any bill."