Published: Tue, June 20, 2017
U.S. | By Vera Richards

Senate passes sweeping sanctions bill targeting Iran, Russia

Senate passes sweeping sanctions bill targeting Iran, Russia

United States senators sent Russian Federation a message Wednesday with a almost unanimous, bipartisan vote on a set of sanctions as part of the larger Countering Iran's Destabilizing Activities Act, but they also were likely sending President Donald Trump a little memo as well. House aides said they expected the chamber would begin to debate the measure in the coming weeks, although they could not predict when it might face a final vote.

"This bipartisan amendment is the sanctions regime that the Kremlin deserves for its actions".

The anti-Iran sanctions come following two sets of sanctions that were rolled out in February and May by the US Treasury Department over Iran's missile program. The two "no" senators were Republicans Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mike Lee of Utah.

The US Senate on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved a new package of sanctions that punish Russian Federation for its efforts to alter the course of the 2016 presidential election.

House leadership has not yet decided when or if it will take up the bill.

"We have no time to waste", said Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona.

The Senate on June 15 voted 98-2 to pass the legislation, which will now be sent to the House of Representatives for approval before being sent to Trump for his signature.

Though there's little dispute over Russia's interference in the election, questions remain over the goal and extent of the meddling.

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In a state-television interview which aired Saturday, Russian president Vladimir Putin said that the proposed sanctions were "harmful" and would "complicate Russia-American relations".

Mueller is investigating alleged Russian interference in the 2016 United States presidential election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign.

However, with the bill heading to the House, it appears that the White House is now working with House Republicans to weaken the legislation and restore President Donald Trump's power over the sanctions. Earlier Wednesday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson expressed his opposition to the legislation, saying it would hurt the "flexibility" the administration needs to "maintain a constructive dialogue" with Russian Federation.

Sanders said he voted against the larger bill because he said sanctioning Iran could harm the Iranian nuclear deal.

The Senate had been pondering what separate measures against Russian Federation might look like, but Corker and ranking Democrat Ben Cardin of Maryland suggested the Iran bill might be a better and faster route for them.

Earlier this month, Yahoo News reported that the Trump administration secretly tried to eliminate Russia's economic sanctions.

The leaders of the Senate Banking and Foreign Relations committees announced late Monday that they'd reached an agreement on the sanctions package after intensive negotiations.

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