Well, it’s convenient that Rep. Bill Pascrell’s latest legislation features a nifty acronym; one that will have less educated readers than you hitting up their dictionaries. Today, Pascrell introduced the No Russian DACHA Act. A dacha, as you know from your reading of Alexander Pushkin and Anton Chekhov, is a Russian cottage for getaways and summer vacays. Pascrell’s bill is No Russian DACHA (Diplomatic Access to Compounds Here in America) Act.
See what he did there?
As you know, the Obama administration – on its way out in late-late 2016 – decided to shut down Russian compounds in New York and Maryland following confirmation from all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies that the Russian government meddled in our presidential election (instead of, you know, letting us do that ourselves). Additional complaints include the harassment of members of our diplomatic corps in Moscow (and uh, this – yikes) and allegations that the Russians were using the properties for intelligence purposes. Suspicions, by the way, that have been around since Ronald Reagan’s day. Obama gave the Russians just 24 hours to pack up and get out.
Trump, prioritizing affiliations and/or obligations that are a bit different from Obama’s, is making noises like he plans to give them back. Pascrell:
“The U.S. government shuttered these compounds because of Russian interference in the 2016 election. It makes no sense to give these facilities back without assurances that these properties were not used by Russian personnel for intelligence-related purposes. While investigations trying to answer that very question are still ongoing, returning these compounds to Russia is premature at best and foolish at worst. Confounding actions taken by the administration are becoming the new normal, so this legislation allows Congress to step in. Let’s show the American people that there can be reasonable decision-makers still at the helm in Washington.”
Trump can’t be counted on to require confirmation that these properties won’t again be turned into spy factories, so Pascrell’s bill addresses those concerns. His bill requires a 120-day review period before the President can waive, suspend, reduce, provide relief from, or otherwise limit the application of sanctions with respect to granting access to these facilities. And it requires the President to submit a report to Congress describing any proposed changes to sanctions prior to taking any action that could grant access to the two Russian compounds. That report also must certify the Russian government has ceased harassing U.S. diplomatic personnel in Russia and that these properties were not used by Russian personnel for intelligence-related purposes. And after all that, the final decision is still left with Congress; once the report’s received, the bill allows the U.S. Senate and House to act or decline to take action on any proposed sanctions relief. After the 120 day review period, if both Senate & House haven’t voted in support of a Joint Resolution of Disapproval, access will be granted.
I think we’re going to see more and more of this kind of legislation, in which Democrats in Congress seek to run interference on this President and be the adults. That said, we’ll have to see if there are adults enough in Congress to push this through.