US Senators Back Legislation Strengthening Russia Sanctions

Russian President Vladimir Putin | WPA Pool

Russian President Vladimir Putin | WPA Pool

Monday's agreement, to be filed as an amendment to an Iran sanctions Bill, is meant to punish Russian Federation over issues including its alleged meddling in the USA election last year, annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region and support for the government of Syria in that country's six-year civil war.

"There is a concern that there may be some conversations taking place between Russian Federation and the United States that may very well deal with relaxing sanctions", the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee Ben Cardin said.

The proposal would provide for a congressional review process if the executive branch eases current sanctions on Russian Federation.

Top lawmakers on two Senate committees - Banking and Foreign Relations - announced the sanctions deal late Monday amid the firestorm over Russia's meddling in the presidential election and investigations into Moscow's possible collusion with members of President Donald Trump's campaign. The bill is expected to have strong support when it goes before the full Senate, and would have to then pass in the House of Representatives and be signed by President Donald Trump.

Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) worked on the initial legislation after State Department officials complained about pressure from Trump aides.

"It's as comprehensive as we could make it, and it's going to be a very good piece of legislation", Republican Senator Bob Corker told reporters on Monday night, shortly after Majority Leader Mitch McConnell formally filed the deal. Jeff Flake, R-Arizona, said last week that the Senate ought to give Trump "more time" before pushing sanctions. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, of the Banking Committee, and Sens.

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It would affect "key sectors of Russia's economy, including mining, metals, shipping and railways".

The legislation is expected to be attached as an amendment to an unrelated bill involving sanctions on Iran.

"We believe that the existing executive branch sanctions regime is the best tool for compelling Russian Federation to fulfill its commitments", Sanders said.

"Democrats feel strongly that Russian Federation sanctions should move alongside Iran sanctions and we're prepared to do what we can to make sure that we get a vote on a good amendment", he said.

President Trump had said in January he would be open to lifting sanctions on Moscow if they assisted the United States fight extremism and Terrorism. The President has not publicly weighed in on the new Russian Federation sanctions, and if the House passes the deal, it could force Trump to take a stance on Russian Federation sanctions. "There was serious consideration by the White House to unilaterally rescind the sanctions", said Dan Fried, a veteran State Department official who served as chief USA coordinator for sanctions policy until he retired in late February.

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