Senate passes Russian Federation sanctions bill, pushing back against Trump

Jun 20, 2017, 00:56

The Senate voted almost unanimously Wednesday to allow Congress to strip the president of the power to unilaterally lift existing sanctions against Russian Federation, a matter that had many of President Donald Trump's allies siding with his harshest critics.

Last year, Trump told The New York Times that he questioned whether it was in the United States' best interest to continue the sanctions on Russian Federation.

The White House didn't mention the Iran sanctions part of the bill, but did appear to be down on the Russian Federation portion, saying they believe that the existing slew of anti-Russia sanctions are already plenty. It was noted, "the amendment of the Russian Federation will be attached to the pending bill on sanctions against Iran".

The legislation sets up a review process that would require Trump to get Congress' approval before taking any action to ease, suspend or lift any sanctions on Russian Federation.

The bipartisan legislation passed overwhelmingly Thursday, 98-2, more than five months after USA intelligence agencies determined Moscow had deliberately interfered in the 2016 presidential campaign.

During a congressional hearing on Wednesday, Tillerson urged the 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".

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"We do project ourselves strongly into this issue, Congress does, the Senate does, but we also left flexibilities for them to be able to manage foreign policy", he said.

Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., joined Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., as the only two legislators voting against the new bill. Testifying this week on Capitol Hill, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson acknowledged the need to take action against Russian Federation but warned against measures that would cut off dialogue with Moscow. "This amendment makes clear that we will not continue to tolerate such actions".

Mueller is investigating alleged Russian interference in the 2016 USA presidential election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign.

"Today marks a significant shift of power back to the American people's representatives, something that has been a top priority of mine since becoming the lead Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee more than four years ago".

The Senate legislation imposes sanctions on people involved in Iran's ballistic missile program and anyone who does business with them. Broad new sanctions would be imposed on Russia's mining, metals, shipping and railways sectors.

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