White House Wants More Flexible Russia-Sanctions Deal From Congress

The Senate-passed sanctions bill also converts existing penalties against Moscow into law, potentially making them more hard to remove, and prevents the Trump administration from returning two Russian diplomatic compounds seized in December by the Obama administration as punishment for alleged electoral disruption.

Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) voting against the measure, the Senate approved a new package of sanctions that requires congressional approval before the Trump administration can roll back any sanctions against Russian Federation.

On Wednesday, the Senate voted overwhelmingly, 97-2, to impose sanctions on Russian Federation for interfering in the 2016 presidential election.

The measure is meant to punish Russian Federation for meddling in the 2016 US election, its annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region and support for Syria's government in the six-year-long civil war.

The Senate maintains that the Iran sanctions that target its ballistic missile programme, destabilizing activities in the region and support for terrorist groups do not violate the Iran nuclear deal, which saw an easing of other sanctions. Senators Rand Paul and Bernie Sanders were the only two "no" votes. These latest sanctions are in retaliation for Russia's interference in last year's presidential election.

"We moved to make the Congress, not the President, the final arbiter of sanctions relief when necessary", Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said.

The Senate voted 98 to 2, today, to pass the underlying Iran sanctions legislation as amended.

In addition, within 180 days after the introduction of amendments, the head of the U.S. Treasury Department must submit a report on the possible consequences of extending sanctions on Russia's sovereign debt to the Congress.

The measure also asserts a role for Congress if the White House opts to ease any sanctions against Moscow.

In order for the bill to become law, it must still pass the US House of Representatives and be signed by Trump.

"Today the Senate has finally confronted Russian Federation for interfering in our elections", said Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen, a leader of the push for the legislation.

In a state-television interview which aired Saturday, Russian president Vladimir Putin said that the proposed sanctions were "harmful" and would "complicate Russia-American relations".

Earlier this month, Yahoo News reported that the Trump administration secretly tried to eliminate Russia's economic sanctions.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had agreed "with the sentiment" of holding Russian Federation accountable but had urged Congress not to pass any legislation that could harm a "constructive dialogue" with Moscow.

  • Zachary Reyes