In a almost unanimous vote, the U.S. Senate on Thursday approved new sanctions against Iran and Russian Federation that also limit President Donald Trump's administration from weakening existing sanctions against Moscow.
The amendment ensures that Congress has time to review any plans by the Trump administration to relax, suspend or terminate sanctions - some of which were imposed after Russian Federation annexed Crimea in 2014 and supported separatists in Eastern Ukraine, in a conflict that is ongoing.
The Russian provisions would add people involved in the alleged Russian hacking attacks on the USA election to the sanctions list and impose penalties for delivery of weapons to the Syrian regime, hitting areas of the Russian economy such as mining and the energy sector.
Then-President Barack Obama in late December ordered sanctions on Russian spy agencies, closed two Russian compounds and expelled 35 diplomats the US said were really spies. It was noted, "the amendment of the Russian Federation will be attached to the pending bill on sanctions against Iran". Dan Fried, who retired in February as coordinator for sanctions policy at the State Department, told Yahoo News that there was "serious consideration" by the Trump White House to "unilaterally rescind the sanctions".
"If the president doesn't sign a bill that passes the Senate with 90 votes, the president will learn yet another lesson about what the public wants", Brown said.
Lawmakers advanced the measure just days after it was announced by Banking Chairman Mike Crapo of Idaho and Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker of Tennessee, both of them Republicans belonging to Trump's party, as well as the ranking Democrats on the those panels, Sherrod Brown of OH and Ben Cardin of Maryland.
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While Donald Trump seems determined to make America best friends with Russian Federation - handing over top secret intelligence and trying to lift sanctions against the country - a almost united Senate is standing in his way.
The Senate passed the bill, which also includes additional sanctions on Iran, by an overwhelming 98-2 vote with Sens.
But Secretary of State Rex Tillerson indicated Tuesday he believes a move to further isolate the Kremlin flies in the face of the administration's attempts re-establish ties and work with Moscow on Syria and the Ukraine.
Sens. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Rand Paul, R-Ky., voted against the Russian Federation sanctions package. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) said the plan left him with no good choice. "I think we struck a very good balance".
According to Politico, a senior administration official stated that the "White House is concerned that the legislation would tie its hands on U.S. -Russia relations".