Senate backs measure limiting president's power to lift sanctions

Senators on Wednesday passed the bipartisan sanctions legislation 97-2, underscoring broad support among Republicans and Democrats for rebuking Russian Federation after USA intelligence agencies determined Moscow had deliberately interfered in the presidential campaign.

The Russia sanctions measure was added as an amendment to an Iranian sanctions bill, after a deal was struck between the heads of the Senate Foreign Relations and Banking Committees.

Sanctions would be placed on Russians who violate human rights, supply weapons to the Bashar al-Asad regime in Syria or who are involved in the Russian defense and intelligence industry. It would require the administration to explain any moves to ease or lift sanctions, and create a new mechanism for Congress to review and block any such effort.

The Trump administration is reviewing the Senate measure, S. 722, a White House official said Wednesday.

If the Trump administration decides to oppose the new sanctions, they could be in a bind.

Senators Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) voted against the amendment, while Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland) abstained.

However, the legislation also restricts the White House from easing sanctions without congressional approval, reports the Guardian. Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland did not vote.

Earlier, Trump has indicated he is skeptical about additional sanctions and has been dismissive about the role of Russian interference in the USA elections.

The legislation was filed as an amendment to an Iran sanctions bill.

'For too long, the message to Vladimir Putin has been that Russia can invade its neighbors, threaten U.S. allies, intensify its cyberattacks, and interfere with foreign elections with very little repercussion, ' said Senator John McCain, a strident critic of the Russian leader.

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and co-author of the bill, said he's been updating the State Department. The Crapo Amendment on Russian Federation mostly was created to prevent the president from removing any sanctions without Congressional permission, but quickly expanded to include large new sanctions against mining and energy production within Russian Federation. Testifying this week on Capitol Hill, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson acknowledged the need to take action against Russian Federation but warned against measures that would cut off dialogue with Moscow.

Russian President Vladimir Putin criticized Thursday new sanctions approved by the U.S. Senate, blaming them on domestic political battles in the U.S.

  • Larry Hoffman