Countering Russian aggression has quickly become a foreign policy priority for the newly Democratic-controlled House. Critics of President Donald Trump say his administration is not doing enough to counter Russian aggression and say Congress is obligated to step in.
"Sadly the administration in my opinion hasn't done nearly enough to stand up to Russia and call out Putin's thuggery. So it's up to Congress to assert American leadership on this issue," said Democrat Eliot Engel of New York.
Engel, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, introduced legislation demanding sanctions be imposed in response to the killing of prominent Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov. Nemtsov was shot on Feb. 27, 2015, as he walked along a bridge near the Kremlin. Five men have been convicted and jailed in Nemtsov's killing, but his supporters say the true culprits have not been held accountable. Republican Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, who co-sponsored the measure on Nemtsov with Engel, called the resolution an "important step towards justice."
Trump has repeatedly come under fire from critics who point to his administration's reluctance in criticizing Russia's human rights record or its actions in Syria, Ukraine and elsewhere. Trump has also raised doubts about U.S. demands for Russia to return to Ukraine the territory of Crimea it annexed in 2014, and when U.S. intelligence chiefs presented findings on Russia interference in the 2016 election, he cast doubt on the assessment.
"To protect our national security and our democracy, it's vital that we investigate and expose the Russian president's financial networks and cut off the illegal funding for these criminal attacks against our country," said Democratic Rep. Val Demings of Florida. Demings introduced legislation targeting Putin's financial networks along with Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York.
"This legislation is an important step to ensuring the security of our elections and upholding democracy around the world," Stefnik said in a statement. It's unclear if any of the measures passed Tuesday will be taken up by the Senate.