WASHINGTON — In a rebuke to the Trump administration, 136 Republicans joined House Democrats on Thursday to oppose a Treasury Department plan to lift Russian sanctions against companies controlled by an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The overwhelming 362-53 vote will not prevent the Trump administration from easing sanctions on three companies connected to Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch with ties to former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, as Senate Republicans narrowly blocked a similar measure on Wednesday.

Maine’s representatives, Chellie Pingree of the 1st District and Jared Golden of the 2nd District, both Democrats, voted with the majority to oppose lifting sanctions.

But the House vote does mean that a majority of Republicans on Capitol Hill oppose President Trump’s efforts to soften punitive measures on a Russian oligarch – a rejection with potential implications for the administration’s continued stance on Russia, and for the Republican lawmakers who backed the easing of sanctions.

Treasury last month said it intended to lift sanctions the U.S. imposed last year against Deripaska’s companies, including a major aluminum producer, while keeping sanctions intact against Deripaska himself. The company sanctions initially caused havoc with global aluminum prices, prompting European allies to complain.

Treasury said it was prepared to lift the company sanctions because Deripaska agreed to reduce his ownership of the companies below 50 percent. His reduced stake would protect the companies “from the controlling influence of a Kremlin insider,” Treasury said.


Under a rules change Congress passed in 2017, lawmakers have a 30-day window to block any relaxation of Russia-related sanctions after the Treasury Department announces plans to do so. That window closes Friday.

Critics and supporters of the sanctions decision have been scrambling to win votes, particularly in the last week. Leading House Democrats insisted that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin brief them on the Treasury Department’s plans, which he did last Thursday in a classified setting.

House Democrats emerged from the briefing complaining that it was insufficient, while Mnuchin has since been trying to shore up support among Republicans to keep Treasury’s plans intact.

Former senator David Vitter, R-La., has also been lobbying on behalf of one of the Deripaska-controlled companies, En+ Group, and was seen last week in Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s, R-Ky., office waiting for a meeting, just days before the measure objecting to the sanctions lifting came to the floor.

The measure fell just a few votes shy of the 60 needed to advance the resolution to a final vote in the Senate, even after attracting the support of eleven Republican senators including Marco Rubio of Florida, Josh Hawley of Missouri and Ben Sasse of Nebraska.

“With the threat that Russia poses to the United States, to our friends and allies, to democracy around the world, Congress cannot just look the other way when the Administration rushes a decision like this. There are too many open questions about whether Deripaska will still control the companies that these sanctions address,” Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, said on the House floor Thursday.

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