In a rare show of bipartisanship on foreign policy, the Senate voted overwhelmingly on Thursday for a bill that would toughen sanctions on Russian Federation for interfering in the 2016 US elections, as well slap new sanctions on Iran for efforts to expand its long range missile program.
The measure also included language toughening sanctions against Russian Federation in the wake of their accused efforts to influence the outcome of the 2016 election, converting some of the penalties put in place by former President Barack Obama's administration into law, and forbidding Trump from weakening existing Russian Federation sanctions without first seeking Senate approval.
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. Indeed, the bill requires a congressional review if the president attempts to ease or end sanctions against Moscow, according to the Associated Press.
United States senators sent Russian Federation a message Wednesday with a almost unanimous, bipartisan vote on a set of sanctions as part of the larger Countering Iran's Destabilizing Activities Act, but they also were likely sending President Donald Trump a little memo as well.
The Senate approved the bill 98-2, with Republican Rand Paul of Kentucky and Independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont voting against the measure.
If passed, the new Russian Federation provisions would make it more hard for Trump to relax sanctions against the country. Besides, the document contains a provision that does not allow President Donald Trump to weaken or cancel the measures taken without the approval of the Congress.
But Democrats fear that the White House would be very demanding in its efforts to dilute the legislation.
In December, following the election, the Obama administration imposed new sanctions against Russian Federation and expelled a number of its diplomats as punishment for meddling in the presidential election.
The White House has been silent on the proposal and administration officials have been unclear on what the official position is. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., the Foreign Relations Committee chairman, said the amendment's final language precluded that. The Trump administration has pushed back against the bill, and his fellow Republicans hold a commanding 238- to 193-seat majority in the chamber.
Today's vote was the most significant blow the Republican President has received from the Republican Congress. AJC also strongly advocated for the Iran Sanctions Extension Act, which became law in December 2016.