The Senate easily voted Wednesday to advance a bipartisan agreement to slap new financial penalties on Russia and let Congress weigh in before President Trump can lift sanctions.
Senators voted 97-2 to attach the deal to an Iran sanctions bill currently being debated on the Senate floor.
The Hill added:
“The Senate is expected to pass the Iran and Russia sanctions bill as soon as this week. Absent an agreement, the Senate will take another procedural vote on the legislation on Thursday morning.
The vote comes after top Republicans held off for months from backing tougher financial penalties in a bid to give the Trump administration space to try to improve the U.S.-Russia relationship, which soured under the Obama administration.”
But top senators have signaled that talks with Russia over Syria, where Moscow supports Syrian President Bashar Assad, were moving too slowly to warrant holding off on new penalties.
“We must take our own side in this fight. Not as Republicans, not as Democrats, but as Americans. It’s time to respond to Russia’s attack on American democracy with strength, with resolve, with common purpose, and with action,” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said ahead of Wednesday’s vote.
Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), the chairman of the Banking Committee, praised the agreement as a “strong bipartisan measure” that will “result in some very powerful and new sanctions’ against Russia.
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.
“I think it sets a good example of how the Senate can still work together to tackle complex and difficult issues,” Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said ahead of the vote.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) also urged support for the deal ahead of the vote, arguing it’s as “bipartisan as it gets.”
“Leader [Mitch] McConnell and I worked extremely well together on this issue,” he said.
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), who was involved in the negotiations, said the amendment would send message to an administration that “has been all over the diplomatic map.”
Gary Cohn, director of the White House National Economic Council, said last month that the administration wouldn’t weaken Russia sanctions, adding that, “if anything, we could probably look to get tougher.”
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned on Wednesday that Congress should not pass any legislation that would undercut “constructive dialogue” with Russia.
“I would urge Congress to ensure any legislation allows the president to have the flexibility to adjust sanctions,” he said during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing.