In 98-2 vote, Senate passes tougher sanctions on Iran, Russia

Cheryl Sanders
June 26, 2017

"By codifying existing sanctions and requiring Congressional review of any decision to weaken or lift them, we are ensuring that the United States continues to punish President Putin for his reckless and destabilizing actions", Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement.

The measure calls for strengthening current sanctions and imposing new ones on a broad range of people, including Russians engaged in corruption, individuals in human rights abuses and anyone supplying weapons to the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

The move comes amid political controversy over President Donald Trump's views on Russia and speculation over whether his campaign colluded with Russian attempts to sway the 2016 election in his favor.

But Democrats said the message of the Russian Federation sanctions was aimed not just at Moscow, but also at the White House. The batch of sanctions would be added to a bill imposing penalties on Iran that the Senate is now debating.

Trump has said several times that he hoped to work with Russian Federation on fighting terrorism around the world, specifically the Islamic State group that has taken hold in Iraq and Syria.

But Democrats fear that the White House would be very demanding in its efforts to dilute the legislation.

To take effect, the measure would also have to pass the House of Representatives and be signed into law by Mr Trump. 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. Before passing the combined Russia-Iran measure, the chamber also attached a bipartisan amendment signaling support for NATO's Article 5 - which Trump earlier this month notably declined to endorse in Brussels - by a unanimous vote.

The power would allow congress to strengthen those sanctions in retaliation for Moscow's alleged interference in the 2016 election and its actions in Syria.

Lawmakers advanced the measure just days after it was announced by Banking Chairman Mike Crapo of Idaho and Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker of Tennessee, both of them Republicans belonging to Trump's party, as well as the ranking Democrats on the those panels, Sherrod Brown of OH and Ben Cardin of Maryland.

The sanctions measure has been attached to a bill imposing penalties on Iran that the Senate is now debating and which also has strong bipartisan support.

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., the author of the bill, told reporters he hoped President Donald Trump would "acknowledge" the near-unanimous support among senators for tougher actions against Iran and Russian Federation. Also included in the bill is an amendment strengthening sanctions for Russian officials who support cyberattacks against the USA and its allies.

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