In an overwhelming vote of 98-2, the U.S. Senate on Thursday sent President Donald Trump a bipartisan bill that places new economic sanctions on Russia, Iran and North Korea, as members of both parties joined to send a message not only to those three regimes, but also the the White House, on the subject of U.S.-Russian relations and the 2016 campaign.
“We will not tolerate attacks on our democracy. That’s what this bill is all about,” Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) declared on the Senate floor, as Senators in both parties directly linked Russian interference in last year’s elections to this legislative effort.
“This bill will prevent President Trump from relaxing sanctions on Russia without Congressional review,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH). “We’re all concerned about that.”
“Today’s legislation will help us more forcefully defend our interests and hold these destabilizing regimes accountable,” said Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA).
“This measure makes clear that Iran, North Korea and Russia will always be held accountable for their malicious actions,” said Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK).
But because of the provisions that limit the President’s authority on sanctions against Russia, the White House has been reluctant to endorse the effort, as hours before the vote, officials were still refusing to say whether President Trump would veto this bill.
“We continue to support strong sanctions against those three countries. And we are going to wait and see what that final of legislation and make a decision at that point,” said spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
But the Senate vote of 98-2, and the House vote of 419-3, showed a Congress that was almost united in support of the plan, suggesting there would be more than enough votes to override a veto by Mr. Trump.
“President Trump should sign this bill as soon as it hits his desk,” said Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA). “Otherwise, he risks encouraging Russia’s interference in future elections.”
The plan targets Russian’s energy, intelligence and defense sectors with sanctions, and also includes provisions to challenge Russian disinformation and propaganda efforts in Europe.
From the outset, Mr. Trump has advocated a less confrontational approach with Russia, one that has been repeatedly rejected by members of both parties – and this bill was one more piece of evidence on that front.
“This bipartisan bill is about keeping America safe, and I urge the president to sign it into law,” said Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.