Senators Back Legislation Strengthening Russia Sanctions

United States senators reached an agreement on Monday on legislation imposing new sanctions on Russian Federation, including a provision that would prevent the White House from easing, suspending or ending sanctions without congressional approval.

A statement from Republican and Democratic leaders on the Senate banking committee said the amendment "expands sanctions against the government of Russian Federation in response to the violation of the territorial integrity of the Ukraine and Crimea, its brazen cyber attacks and interference in elections, and its continuing aggression in Syria".

Under the amendment, sanctions would be imposed on Russians who have been found guilty of human rights abuses, have supplied weapons to the Assad regime or have conducted cyber attacks on behalf of the Russian government, among other categories.

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.

To become law, the legislation still must pass the House of Representatives and be signed by Trump.

The Senate was almost unanimous on Thursday passing a bill that would slap Russian Federation with new sanctions and give Congress the power to review any White House attempts to roll them back.

The bill includes new sanctions on Iran over its ballistic missile program and "continued support for terrorism". But in a Senate panel Tuesday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned against passing a measure, saying it would make it more hard to improve U.S.

Sens. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Rand Paul, R-Ky., voted against the Russian Federation sanctions package. It's attached as an amendment to an Iran sanctions bill.

"We've been interacting with the state department and, again, we'll see what happens", he told reporters. "It is appalling that the Trump administration is even considering it, and that is why we need this amendment". Bernie Sanders (I-VT) said the plan left him with no good choice.

He clearly wants to go in the opposite direction and he certainly wouldn't want to add more sanctions for election interference when he keeps denying that the Russians interfered in the first place.

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said the overwhelming passage of the measure "sends a strong signal to President Vladimir Putin while ensuring the Trump administration has the flexibility it needs".

  • Annette Adams