A glance at the Senate's Iran, Russia sanctions legislation

Posted June 25, 2017

The US Senate voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday for new sanctions punishing Russian Federation for alleged meddling in the 2016 US election, and to force President Donald Trump to get Congress' approval before easing any existing sanctions.

"With overwhelming Senate passage of the Russian Federation sanctions amendment, the United States sends a strong signal to President Putin while ensuring the Trump administration has the flexibility it needs", said Senator Bob Corker, Chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The amendment, which includes new sanctions on the Kremlin over human rights violations and meddling in the 2016 presidential election, is attached to an Iran sanctions bill that could pass as soon as this week, making it more hard for President Trump to veto the legislation.

The amendment would also slap new sanctions on Russians involved in human rights violations, those supplying weapons to the Syrian government and those conducting "malicious cyber activity on behalf of the Russian government".

Last December, the Obama administration responded to Russia's provocations with sanctions on Russia's central intelligence services.

The new sanctions were proposed as a response to Russia's alleged meddling in the 2016 USA presidential election.

Republican senators said Tuesday they expected Trump to sign the bill, which will still need to be passed in the House before it goes to the President's desk. The new sanctions are meant to punish Russian Federation for its role in the fighting in Syria and for interfering in the 2016 election.

The underlying bill imposed new sanctions on Iran for its ballistic missile program and support for worldwide terrorism.

The White House is seeking to influence some GOP House members to ease up on the Senate-passed Russian Federation sanctions, hoping that the lower chamber will provide "administration-friendly" changes, according to Politico.

The legislation would also restrict the White House from easing sanctions in the future without congressional approval. Republicans Mike Lee of Utah and Rand Paul of Kentucky were the only "no" votes.

The Russia amendment include provisions to limit transactions and exports, put into law existing punishments laid out by the Obama administration and condemn the country's interventions in Ukraine and Syria.

Last year, Trump told The New York Times that he questioned whether it was in the United States' best interest to continue the sanctions on Russian Federation.

"I would hope to allow the diplomatic efforts to attempt to make some progress", Tillerson said earlier this week.