U.S.

Senate passes sweeping sanctions bill targeting Iran, Russia

Senate passes sweeping sanctions bill targeting Iran, Russia

The U.S. Senate voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to punish Russian Federation over its alleged election meddling, passing a bill that would bar President Donald Trump from unilaterally easing existing sanctions on Moscow.

To make it even harder for U.S. President Donald Trump, who had been seeking rapprochement with Russia for months, to reject the new Russia sanctions, the Senate also attached the new Russia sanctions to a bill imposing sanctions on Iran.

On Wednesday, the Senate voted overwhelmingly, 97-2, to impose sanctions on Russian Federation for interfering in the 2016 presidential election.

Lawmakers said they're responding to Russia's involvement in Ukraine and meddling in the 2016 US presidential election, and to Iran's development of a ballistic missile program, support for terrorism and violations of human rights.

It also would require President Donald Trump to seek congressional permission to relax the current regime of sanctions against Russian Federation, possibly limiting his leeway to improve relations between Washington and Moscow.

The bipartisan support for the year's most significant GOP-backed limitation on Trump comes as the White House remains silent on the plan to sanction Moscow, even as President Putin pushes back at USA intelligence officials' conclusion that Russian actors conducted cyberattacks to disrupt the 2016 presidential election.

President Donald Trump campaigned on easing tensions with Russian Federation, arguing that it would be in America's best interest to try warming relations with Vladimir Putin.

In a move that could complicate US President Donald Trump's desire for warmer relations with Moscow, the Senate backed the measure by 98-2. The libertarian-minded Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) was the only other "no" vote against the bill.

"“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 [Vladimir] Putin for his reckless and destabilizing actions", Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer wrote in a statement, as cited by Reuters.

But the vote on Russian Federation sanctions was overshadowed by the shooting of GOP House Whip Steve Scalise, a GOP staff member, a former GOP staffer and two members of the U.S. Capitol Police force, while they practiced for a congressional baseball game in Alexandria, Virginia, early Wednesday morning.

The bill as originally introduced was exclusively about slapping new sanctions on Iran. Tillerson had asked for some time to try and change the direction of U.S. -Russia relations before Congress levied new sanctions on the Kremlin.


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