Senate votes to force Trump's hand on Russia sanctions

The Senate voted almost unanimously Wednesday to not only impose new sanctions on Russia, but to also expressly block any effort by President Trump to scale sanctions back.
By Linda Mack | Jun 16, 2017
The Senate voted almost unanimously Wednesday to not only impose new sanctions on Russia, but to also expressly block any effort by President Trump to scale sanctions back. The measure passed 97-2, with senators Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) the only two to vote no.

"This administration has been too eager, far too eager in my mind, to put sanctions relief on the table," Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said. "We cannot let Russia's meddling in our elections go unpunished, lest they ever consider something similar again."
Trump has not explicitly proposed any Russia sanctions relief, but State Department sources told reporters last month that the Trump transition team had ordered their agency to develop proposals for lifting the sanctions and only abandoned the request after strong pushback from Obama-appointed State employees.

Trump has also drawn criticism from Democrats and Republicans for rhetoric that they consider to be too conciliatory toward Russia. He has, for instance, repeatedly praised Russian president Vladimir Putin.

The legislation got a chilly reception from the White House. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson appeared before the House Foreign Affairs and argued that forcing the White House to enact punitive measures against Russia would get in the way of constructive negotiations. He told the body that he agreed that Russia had interfered in U.S. elections last year but that legislation such as this would be counterproductive.

"We would ask for the flexibility to turn the heat up when we need to, but also to ensure that we have the ability to maintain a constructive dialogue," Tillerson said.

The House has not yet voted on the bill, which was drafted as an add-on to an existing bill calling for sanctions against Iran. If the Senate vote is any indicator, the bill may get enough votes in both houses to override a presidential veto.

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