Trump faces Russian Federation dilemma as Senate overwhelmingly passes new sanctions

Alejandro Massey
June 20, 2017

The Senate on Thursday voted 98-2 for new sanctions on Iran and Russian Federation, including new powers for Congress to block President Donald Trump from rolling back any penalties against Vladimir Putin's government.

"With overwhelming Senate passage of the Russian Federation sanctions amendment, the US sends a strong signal to President Putin while ensuring the Trump administration has the flexibility it needs", said Senator Corker.

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

The provision also would require congressional review if the White House decides to relax, suspend or terminate sanctions already in place.

"With overwhelming Senate passage of the Russian Federation sanctions amendment, the USA sends a strong signal to President Putin while ensuring the Trump administration has the flexibility it needs", Corker said in a statement.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said this week that he was wary of Congress taking actions that could interfere with the administration's efforts to improve relations with Russian Federation. Also included in the bill is an amendment strengthening sanctions for Russian officials who support cyberattacks against the US and its allies. The two "no" senators were Republicans Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mike Lee of Utah.

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But the vote on Russian Federation sanctions was overshadowed by the shooting of GOP House Whip Steve Scalise, a GOP staff member, a former GOP staffer and two members of the U.S. Capitol Police force, while they practiced for a congressional baseball game in Alexandria, Virginia, early Wednesday morning. Then it will be brought before US President Donald Trump, who will have to either sign or vetoit. Broad new sanctions would be imposed on Russia's mining, metals, shipping and railways sectors.

But Tillerson urged Congress to make the sanctions legislation doesn't tie the president's hands and shut down promising avenues of communication between the two former Cold War foes.

The House will take up the legislation next, although it has not yet scheduled any vote.

A senior White House official inquired again in March, however, asking the State Department to assess if sanctions on Russian Federation were harming USA interests and whether lifting them would increase Russia's oil production and therefore help the American economy, according to The Daily Beast. Bob Corker of Tennessee, the Republican chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, joined the effort to push the legislation forward.

House Republicans are expected to review the Senate-passed sanctions bill in the coming weeks, an aide told Politico. The inquiries raised red flags among Obama administration holdovers at the State Department, who asked Congress to preempt any attempts by Trump to alter the sanctions regime now in place.

Other reports by Free-Prsite

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