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.
It would impose new sanctions on Russians found to be guilty of human rights abuses, supplying weapons to Syria's government and conducting cyber attacks on behalf of Russia's government, among others.
The US Senate is aiming to punish Russia's Vladimir Putin for interfering in last year's presidential election by drafting sanctions that would prevent President Donald Trump from unilaterally easing pressure on Moscow.
The vote to strengthen sanctions against Russia - which Senators on both parties made clear was created to send a message on Russian meddling in the 2016 elections - came hours after President Donald Trump had again mocked the investigation surrounding those charges. It's attached as an amendment to an Iran sanctions bill.
That includes the possibility of allowing Russian Federation to regain access to compounds in NY and Maryland that the Obama administration seized last December, saying Russian Federation was using the compounds for intelligence activities.
The measures need the approval of the House of Representatives and to be signed into law by President Trump, although they are thought to have enough Congressional support to override any veto. This comes after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson stated that the new sanctions would hamper diplomacy with Russian Federation.
The Senate voted 98 to 2, today, to pass the underlying Iran sanctions legislation as amended.
Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Tillerson was noncommittal about a package of new Russian Federation sanctions, saying he's still reviewing the proposed penalties that Senate Republicans and Democrats agreed upon after lengthy negotiations.
The vote was 97 to two for the legislation, filed as an amendment to an Iran sanctions bill.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) filed the amendment late Monday, setting up a vote for later this week, after extensive talks with Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo (R-Idaho).
However, Sen. Robert Menendez was skeptical, telling Politico, "I just cannot fathom how House Republicans could ultimately, with everything that's going on with Russia's nefarious actions, try to either deep-six the bill or dramatically change it".
"We think that is a fundamental policy shift for the United States that needs to be done in sunlight and therefore a review of Congress is urgent", says Maryland Senator Ben Cardin, the ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee.