Senators have struck a deal to put a comprehensive Russia sanctions bill on the floor this week, according to those negotiating the legislation.
The measure, which will be attached to a bill to stiffen Iran sanctions that is currently under consideration, incorporates proposals to codify existing Russia sanctions, introduce new punitive measures against Moscow in light of Russia’s aggressive activities in Ukraine, new measures addressing Syria and in the realm of cyberhacking, and give Congress the power to review any efforts by the administration to scale back sanctions against Russia before they can go through.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., filed the amendment late Monday night, 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. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., Foreign Relations Committee’s ranking Democrat Ben Cardin, D-Md., Banking committee ranking member Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and vocal Russia critics Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lindsey O. Graham, R-S.C., were also involved in various stages of the discussion.
“This is a very comprehensive piece of legislation,” Corker said late Monday night following the introduction of the measures. “It really touches all the components.”
Various senators involved in the discussions had between them filed three different bills to increase sanctions against Russia over its involvement in the wars in Ukraine and Syria, as well as over allegations Russia meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections. Certain proposed bills also included measures to give Congress the power to block the president from easing up on any existing sanctions against Russia, and to better counter Russian propaganda in the United States and Europe.
Corker said that he had drafted a fourth bill himself about three months ago addressing several of the points, but that his office had never released it.
The measure filed Monday night directs sanctions toward Russia’s intelligence and defense apparatus, as well as parts of its energy, mining, railways and shipping economy. It also includes provisions to punish those engaged in corruption and human rights abusers.
Schumer said in a statement that the new measure will “send a powerful and bipartisan statement to Russia and any other country who might try to interfere in our elections that they will be punished.”
The Senate has refrained until now from putting such a sanctions bill to a vote largely because Corker wanted to give the administration more time to attempt making progress cooperating with Russia over the war in Syria – something he repeated Monday night that he never fully expected they could do.
“I wanted to give [Secretary of State Rex] Tillerson until two weeks ago,” Corker said, adding: “I’ve been ready the whole time.”
When asked if the White House was on board with the measure, Corker hestitated, noting: “I have to believe that the administration has to at least strongly consider supporting this.”
He added, however, that he was sure the measure could procure a veto-proof level of support in the Senate.
(c) 2017, The Washington Post · Karoun Demirjian