The U.S. Senate voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to punish Russian Federation over its alleged election meddling, passing a bill that would bar President Donald Trump from unilaterally easing existing sanctions on Moscow.
The threat of a new wave of sanctions emerged this month as US policymakers backed the idea of punishing Russian Federation for alleged meddling in the 2016 USA presidential election and for supporting Syria’s government in the six-year-long civil war.
Lawmakers said they’re responding to Russia’s involvement in Ukraine and meddling in the 2016 USA presidential election, and to Iran’s development of a ballistic missile program, support for terrorism and violations of human rights.
The measure sets up a process for Congress to review changes in sanctions, puts into law actions previously established via presidential executive order, and imposes new sanctions on Russians found guilty of human rights abuses or conducting cyber attacks.
During the hearing Wednesday, Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson urged senators to oppose the measure so that Trump and his administration would have “the flexibility to turn the heat up” if necessary.
On Wednesday, the Senate voted 97-2 to codify those sanctions and others into law, and prevent President Trump, who has been alarmingly warm toward the authoritarian regime in Moscow, from undoing them at will.
“I have no idea” if the White House is adequately concerned about Russian intervention in last year’s election, Corker added, but “hopefully the White House will acknowledge” the massive level of Senate support for new sanctions against Russia.
Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., joined Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., as the only two legislators voting against the new bill.
If passed, the new Russian Federation provisions would make it more hard for Trump to relax sanctions against the country.
White House Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders the following day criticized the sanctions package.
President Donald Trump hasn’t officially eased any current sanctions, but he previously suggested he’d consider doing so if Russian Federation helped the US fight terrorism. It then heads to the House of Representatives.
“This is a very, very strong piece of legislation”, Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Corker said on the Senate floor.
Today’s vote was the most significant blow the Republican President has received from the Republican Congress.
This bill still must go to the House for consideration; it’s not clear whether it will be advanced by GOP leaders there, as the Trump Administration is not pleased with some of the details. The bipartisan effort showcases that the Obama legacy on relations with Iran, and specifically the Iran deal (which is not rescinded in the Senate bill), have become deeply unpopular.