US Senate passes new Russia sanctions

The U.S. Senate voted near ly unanimously on Thursday for legislation to impose new sanctions on Russian Federation and force President Donald Trump to get Congress' approval before easing any existing sanctions on Russian Federation.

However, the legislation also restricts the White House from easing sanctions without congressional approval, reports the Guardian.

The bipartisan measure would require the president to inform Congress before taking any action that could alter United States foreign policy "with regard to the Russian federation", including changes to the sanctions regime imposed by Obama in response to Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014 and meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

The measure also gives Congress the ability to block attempts by President Donald Trump to lift sanctions against Moscow.

The bipartisan support for the year's most significant GOP-backed limitation on Trump comes as the White House remains silent on the plan to sanction Moscow, even as President Putin pushes back at US intelligence officials' conclusion that Russian actors conducted cyberattacks to disrupt the 2016 presidential election.

Senate approval of the bill comes more than five months after US intelligence agencies said Moscow meddled in the 2016 election. A date hasn't been set for a final vote on the full measure.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., filed the amendment late Monday night, setting up a vote for later this week, after extensive talks with Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo, R-Idaho.

That they are willing to stand with Democrats in sending a message to Trump about Russian Federation is a good first step, but they must go much further, and support all necessary investigations, if they are serious about securing our democratic system from further attacks.

"My expectation is that the White House will have positive things to say about what we've done", Cardin said.

During the hearing Wednesday, Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson urged senators to oppose the measure so that Trump and his administration would have "the flexibility to turn the heat up" if necessary. The US Senate has approved a bill aimed at increasing pressure on Iran, which also includes a provision tightening sanctions against Russian Federation. He said Tuesday the administration should be supportive of the measure.

To help protect against a Trump veto, senators merged the bill, which enshrines sanctions against Russia's military and intelligence sectors, with legislation imposing further sanctions on Iran. "The Crapo-Brown-Corker-Cardin bill will result in some very powerful, new sanctions against Russian Federation".

Russia's interference in the 2016 campaign has rocked Washington and led to multiple investigations, including special counsel Robert Mueller's inquiry into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.

  • Leroy Wright