In Rare Moment of Bipartisan Unity, Senate Approves New Russia Sanctions

"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.

The US Senate has overwhelmingly passed an amendment to strengthen and expand the current sanctions against Russian Federation, sending a "strong" signal to President Vladimir Putin over territorial violation in Crimea, alleged meddling in elections and aggression in Syria. The bill includes a mechanism requiring congressional review of any decision to ease the Russian Federation sanctions.

Trump officials have been eager to crack down on Iran's non-nuclear illicit activities, and have squeezed the country with additional sanctions while they conduct a comprehensive Iran policy review.

The U.S. Senate on Thursday overwhelmingly passed new sanctions on Iran and Russian Federation and put a limit on the White House's ability to roll back any Russian Federation sanctions.

The question of new Russian sanctions has been raised by a number of senators in both parties after the intelligence community announced in January its conclusion that Russia interfered in the 2016 election on behalf of President Donald Trump.

The agreement offers a rare display of bipartisanship in Congress, which remains bitterly divided over how to proceed on healthcare, tax reform and the budget.

The rare bipartisan move was a blow to the Trump administration, which is looking for room to negotiate with Russian Federation.

Moscow has repeatedly denied allegations of meddling in the United States election.

But administration officials have appeared more cautious about stifling the Kremlin with tough rhetoric and sanctions.

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. Schumer predicted the bill would pass with broad bipartisan support.

"I would urge Congress to ensure any legislation allows the president to have the flexibility to adjust sanctions to meet the needs of what is always an evolving diplomatic situation", he told the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

At the same time, he also said he doesn't want to preemptively shut down a potentially productive conversation.

Still, Corker and other Republicans said they expect Trump to sign the bill if it's passed by the House. But Corker said his patience ran out after he reviewed classified intelligence that showed "no difference whatsoever" in Russia's behavior, especially in Syria.

  • Larry Hoffman