Senate Easily Advances Russia Sanctions Deal

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The Senate handily voted Wednesday to advance a bipartisan agreement to impose new financial sanctions on Russia and allows Congress to weigh in before President Trump can lift sanctions.

Senators voted 97-2 to attach the deal to an Iran sanctions bill currently being debated on the Senate floor.

The Senate is expected to pass the Iran and Russia sanctions bill as soon as this week. On Thursday the Senate will hold another procedural vote on the legislation on Thursday morning.

Republicans were waiting to impose the sanctions in an attempt to give the president more time to improve the U.S.-Russia relationship, however top senators say that talks with Russia about Syria have been moving too slowly to wait to hold off new sanctions.

“We must take our own side in this fight. Not as Republicans, not as Democrats, but as Americans. It’s time to respond to Russia’s attack on American democracy with strength, with resolve, with common purpose, and with action,” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said before Wednesday’s vote.

The new Russia deal would impose sanctions on any individuals tied to “malicious cyber activity,” providing weapons to Assad’s government, or tied to Russia’s intelligence and defense sectors.

It would also give Congress 30 to 60 days around the August recess to review and potentially prevent Mr. Trump from lifting or relaxing sanctions on Russia.

Thus far the White House has denied that it is considering lifting sanctions. Gary Cohn, the director of the White House National Economic Council, said that the administration would not lift or weaken the sanctions but instead said, “if anything, we could probably look to get tougher.”

Senators believe the bill will have enough support to override a potential presidential veto.