By Dani Graham
In a rare show of unity, Democrats and Republicans in the Senate came together to pass a bipartisan amendment with a new package expanding sanctions on Russia. Included in the amendment are restrictions on President Trump which would restrain his ability to ease sanctions on Russia without congressional approval.
With 99 Senators in attendance, the amendment was passed almost unanimously by a vote of 97-2. Senators Mike Lee (R-UT) and Rand Paul (R-KY) were the only two who opposed the measure. Although Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) wasn’t able to be there due to a kidney stone, he did tweet that he would have voted yes if he were present.
Senators added the amendment to an already bipartisan Iran sanctions bill. Both parties agree that it is critical to send a strong message to the Kremlin regarding its interference in our elections. The goal is to also have that message transcend beyond Russia in an attempt to prevent any other foreign nation from following in Putin’s footsteps.
“What we have heard from experts in the intel community: They’ve warned us that if Russia gets a pass on this, that it will interfere in future U.S. elections,” said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)
Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo (R-ID), along with Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker (R-TN) and Ranking Member Ben Cardin (D-MD) are credited with drafting the amendment.
One of the bill’s sponsors, Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID), said,
“Americans are concerned about Russia’s behavior in the Ukraine and Syria and they are concerned about Russia’s increased cyber-intrusions. Many of us on both sides of the aisle feel the U.S. needs to be much stronger in its response to Russia.”
In addition to “codifying and strengthening existing sanctions contained in executive orders on Russia” according to the amendment, it added new sanctions against Russia’s military intelligence and defense sectors.
The amendment quickly drew criticism from the White House. Sen. Sherrod Brown said that there are people from the White House who have already started “making calls in the House to try to stop it, slow it, weaken it, dilute it.”
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson expressed his dissatisfaction in a message to Congress urging them: “to ensure any legislation allows the president to have the flexibility to adjust sanctions to meet the needs of what is always an evolving diplomatic situation”.
While President Trump has consistently dismissed Russia’s cyber attacks on the 2016 elections Congress has united to stand up to them. Just before the vote, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) said, “This should not just outrage every American, but it should compel us to action”, and it did.