Some interesting comments from Vladimir Putin regarding the sanctions bill which has now passed both houses of Congress by lopsided votes. (You will need to click the closed caption button to get the English subtitles). The reporter asking the question observes that “it looks like the US is trying to distribute the power of its laws to the territories of other countries.”
To this Putin not only agrees, but he calls the practice “unacceptable,” and he then goes on to add that while Russia has been patient up till now, “at some point we will have to respond.” This comment was then followed by the rather eyebrow-raising, “It is impossible to tolerate arrogance toward our country forever.”
The sanctions bill, which targets Russia, Iran and North Korea, passed the House by a vote of 419-3 on Tuesday, and cleared the Senate 98-2 on Thursday. Today it is being reported that Russia has responded by suspending the use of certain US Embassy properties in Moscow and by ordering the US to reduce the size of its diplomatic staff. It seems Putin has made good on his word, and although the response will likely remain a purely diplomatic one for now, obviously the bill’s passage has ratcheted up tensions in a manner that could lead in some extremely dangerous directions.
The sanctions target a number of Russian industries, including shipping, defense, mining and railway companies, and they also restrict dealings with Russian banks and energy companies. EU officials vociferously opposed the measure, for it seems European energy companies are expected to be the big losers on the deal.
So how is it that such an atrocious piece of legislation could pass both houses of Congress with only five people working up the nerve to vote against it? Do all 517 elected officials who voted “yea” seriously believe the fake news about Russian interference in the election? Or did some of them vote the way they did for other reasons? Are they being controlled by some sort of “force” or “power?” Are they being bribed, threatened, blackmailed? Or did they simply believe the mainstream media’s anti-Russia propaganda has been so effective it has succeeded in brainwashing the majority of their constituents and that it was imperative to support the sanctions bill in order to avoid being voted out of office?
You can go here to see the roll call vote in the House, and here for the Senate’s tally. The most striking thing I noticed, in looking over both lists, was the name of Tulsi Gabbard among the “yea” votes in the House. Gabbard is the congresswoman from Hawaii who in January of this year introduced the “Stop Arming Terrorists Act” in Congress, this after making a fact-finding trip to Syria in which she got to know average Syrians and even met with the country’s president, Bashar Assad.
Gabbard is surely savvy enough to figure out that it is Russia who is fighting terrorists in Syria, while the US has supported them. Or at least one would think. So why would she vote in favor of a sanctions bill against Russia? Was it out of the sort of political considerations mentioned above? Does she believe that the majority of the people of Hawaii who voted her into office are incapable of using an Internet connection to figure out that the mainstream media are not in reality champions of American democracy and that all the hysteria over “Russian hacking” is nothing more than a soap opera? Does she not give them credit for this much intelligence?
The sanctions bill was introduced in the House by Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA). Royce is much more your typical, run-of-the-mill Congress member. I put up a post about him earlier this year. This was after he introduced a bill condemning the UN Security Council for passing a resolution which had demanded a halt to Israeli settlement building. The resolution specifically labeled the settlements as “illegal” under international law.
“Today we put Congress on record objecting to the recent UN Security Council resolution that hurt our ally, that hurt Israel, and I believe that puts an enduring peace further out of reach,” Royce said during the congressional debate on his bill, which passed by a vote of 342-80.
This was back in January of this year. In March, AIPAC held its annual policy conference in Washington. Royce, not surprisingly, was one of the speakers. In fact, I put up a post at the time in which I listed all the members of Congress named on AIPAC’s website as scheduled speakers at the conference. There were 32 in all. Here is the list:
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD)
Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN)
Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL)
Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL)
Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY)
Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA)
Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ)
Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX)
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA)
Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL)
Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD)
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA)
Rep. David Kustoff (R-TN)
Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI)
Sen James Lankford (R-OK)
Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY)
Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA)
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ)
Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-CA)
Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)
Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-TX)
Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD)
Rep. Michael D. Rogers (R-AL)
Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-NV)
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL)
Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA)
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) Speaker of the House
Sen Chuck Schumer (D-NY)
Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA)
Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK)
Rep. Marc Veasey (D-TX)
Out of the above 32 Congress members, 31 voted in favor of the sanctions bill. The lone exception was Rep. Grace Napolitano, who, according to the roll call, was not present when the vote was taken in the House on Tuesday.
Now take another good look at the list and notice the name at the top–Sen. Ben Cardin. I posted an article on Cardin, actually two articles, a week ago. (See here and here.) Both concerned a bill he introduced in the Senate entitled the “Israel Anti-Boycott Act.” The ACLU says Cardin’s bill would impose harsh penalties, including hefty fines and/or imprisonment, for US citizens supporting a boycott of Israel, while Cardin, though he admits the bill targets the BDS movement, denies that its penalties are that draconian. I guess it’s a matter for legal analysts to settle, but the point is, Cardin, in addition to being an avid Senate backer of Israel, was also strongly in favor of the Russia sanctions bill.
“This bill will give us the strongest possible hand to stand up against the aggressions of Russia,” he said yesterday during the Senate debate.
Additionally he claimed that “Russia attacked us on our Democratic institutions”; he also accused the Russians of invading Ukraine, and he insisted that Russia “is participating in war crimes in Syria.” He also believes that if Trump vetoes the bill it will show “presidential weakness toward Russia.” This is Sen. Ben Cardin.
Trump seems to be in a no-win situation here. If he signs the bill into law, it will further alienate his base. If he vetoes the bill, it will be interpreted as proof that he is a patsy or a stooge of Russia. The president’s chances of serving out the full four years of his term don’t look particularly good at this point.
In case you’re curious, the five people who voted against the bill are Rand Paul and Bernie Sanders in the Senate, and Reps. Justin Amash of Michigan, James Duncan of Tennessee, and Thomas Massie of Kentucky in the House. Out of a total of 535 people, these five alone, while perhaps not perfect human beings, chose to hang on to a shred of their integrity.
What can you say about the rest? How do you explain their votes? Do you chalk it up to Bribery? Threats? Blackmail? Half-wittedness? Stupidity?
Is there perhaps an “evil spell” of some sort that they’re all under?
Hard to say what the answer is.
But with leaders of this caliber, America’s chances of avoiding a major debacle or catastrophe at some point down the road don’t look too much better than Trump’s chances of serving out his full term in office.