Senate overwhelmingly passes Russia sanctions deal – The Hill (blog)

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The Senate on Thursday overwhelmingly passed legislation imposing new sanctions on Russia and giving Congress the ability to block President Trump from lifting current penalties.

Senators voted 98-2 on the bill, which also includes new sanctions targeting Iran’s ballistic missile development, support for terrorism, transfer of weapons and human rights violations. Sens. Rand PaulRand PaulOvernight Defense: Senate approves Russia, Iran sanctions | GOP chair expects to surpass Trump defense budget | Nude photo scandal could lead to court-martial Overnight Healthcare: GOP brushes off Trump calling health bill ‘mean’ | Big decision for insurers | Trump order on drug pricing in the works Russian sanctions bill faces uncertain path in House MORE (R-Ky.) and Bernie SandersBernie SandersOvernight Defense: Senate approves Russia, Iran sanctions | GOP chair expects to surpass Trump defense budget | Nude photo scandal could lead to court-martial Overnight Cybersecurity: NSA links Wanna Cry ransomware to North Korea | Dem proposes center to counter Russian hacks | Senators raise questions about leaker’s security clearance OPINION: We must reject toxic rhetoric after violence in Virginia MORE (I-Vt.) voted against the measure.

The legislation marks the Senate’s most significant check on the Trump administration’s foreign policy, which has flirted with lifting sanctions in an bid to entice Moscow into an agreement.

The bill now heads to the House, where it faces an uncertain future amid signs of pushback from the administration.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson appeared to use a House Foreign Affairs hearing this week to telegraph concerns about the bill, warning lawmakers against undercutting “constructive dialogue” with Russia.”I would urge Congress to ensure any legislation allows the president to have the flexibility to adjust sanctions,” he told lawmakers.

Those comments appeared to have little impact in the Senate, where the legislation was expected to get wide bipartisan support after GOP Sens. Mike LeeMike LeeMurkowski: ‘I just truly do not know’ if I can support GOP health bill Rand Paul denounces ‘new entitlements’ in emerging health bill Senate overwhelmingly passes Russia sanctions deal MORE (Utah) and Rand Paul (Ky.) were the only lawmakers to oppose including the Russia sanctions deal in the legislation.

The overwhelming support for new Russia sanctions comes as four congressional committees are investigating Russia’s election interference, including potential ties between the Trump campaign and Moscow. Special counsel Robert Mueller, who oversees the FBI’s probe, is also looking into whether Trump tried to obstruct justice, according to The Washington Post.

Republicans for months held off on backing tougher Russia penalties giving the administration space to try to improve relations with the Kremlin despite bipartisan skepticism in Congress.

But GOP senators pointed to lingering frustration over election interference and few signs of progress in Syria, where Moscow supports President Bashar Assad, as factors in their push to pass new penalties.

“The United States needs to send a strong message to Vladimir Putin and any other aggressor that we will not tolerate attacks on our democracy. There’s no greater threat to our freedoms than attacks on our ability to choose our own leaders free from foreign interference,” said Sen. John McCainJohn McCainSenate overwhelmingly passes Russia sanctions deal ‘Crash Override’ malware heightens fears for US electric grid Democrats in an urban box MORE (R-Ariz.).

The Russia legislation would impose new sanctions on any individuals tied to “malicious cyber activity,” supply weapons to Assad’s government or are tied to Russia’s intelligence and defense sectors.

It would also give Congress 30 days — or 60 days around the August recess — to review and potentially block Trump from lifting or relaxing Russia sanctions, codify the sanctions on Russia imposed by executive order by the Obama administration, and allow the Trump administration to impose new sanctions on sectors of the Russian economy.

Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) added that the restrictions on lifting sanctions are more closely tied to lawmakers reasserting their authority on sanctions that Congress implements than in imposing a check on Trump.

“This is not a hostile amendment. This is an amendment saying we’ve learned our lesson as a body. We should actually apply this. This is not a partisan issue. Whether it is a Republican or Democrat president is irrelevant in this issue. If Congress creates sanctions, Congress should not release the authority to make decisions on and off,” he said from the Senate floor.

Speaker Paul RyanPaul RyanRyan: Pelosi’s grandkids ‘actually like me’ Ryan: Going to ‘take some time’ for Scalise to recover from shooting GOP, Dems move to lower the temperature after shooting MORE (R-Wis.) hasn’t publicly commented on the bill, but has previously voiced support for stronger sanctions and warned Trump earlier this year against lifting penalties against Moscow.

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