Con­gress aims to pun­ish Rus­sia, take back power

Bill in­cludes lim­its on pres­i­den­tial acts

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY STEPHEN DINAN

Sen­a­tors voted over­whelm­ingly Wed­nes­day to write stiff sanc­tions against Rus­sia into law and to give Con­gress a say should Pres­i­dent Trump try to lift them, mak­ing a bi­par­ti­san strike against the gov­ern­ment of Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin.

The sanc­tions were in­tended to be a pun­ish­ment for Rus­sia’s med­dling in Ukraine as well as push­back to the Moscow gov­ern­ment’s at­tempts to in­ter­fere in the U.S. elec­tion last year, law­mak­ers said.

“We can­not let Rus­sia’s med­dling in our elec­tions go un­pun­ished, lest they ever con­sider such in­ter­fer­ence again, nor any other na­tion in the world,” said Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Demo­crat.

The leg­is­la­tion takes sanc­tions im­posed by the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion and writes them into law. If the pres­i­dent wants to lift the sanc­tions, then he must go to Con­gress for per­mis­sion.

Sanc­tions are au­tho­rized on Rus­sia’s

min­ing and ship­ping sec­tors as well, and the gov­ern­ment is re­quired to study the U.S. econ­omy’s ex­po­sure to Rus­sian state-owned en­ter­prises.

The 97-2 vote, which came as part of a broader de­bate over sanc­tions on Iran, marked a rare spot of agree­ment be­tween Democrats and Repub­li­cans, who said they hoped it would be the be­gin­ning of more such deals.

“I think we all agree this has been a rather par­ti­san be­gin­ning to a new ad­min­is­tra­tion. But this bill is a con­spic­u­ous ex­cep­tion to that,” said Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell, Ken­tucky Repub­li­can.

But Democrats said the mes­sage of the Rus­sia sanc­tions was aimed not just at Moscow, but also at the White House.

Mr. Schumer said Mr. Trump has been “far too ea­ger” to float the idea of sanc­tions re­lief with Rus­sia and that the point of the amend­ment was to take the de­ci­sion out of the ex­ec­u­tive’s hands.

For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee Chair­man Bob Corker, Ten­nessee Repub­li­can, said the amend­ment was also meant to re­cover from Pres­i­dent Obama’s term, when he cir­cum­vented Con­gress and used ex­ec­u­tive pow­ers to try to shape sanc­tions.

“This leg­is­la­tion en­sures that Con­gress — both now and in the future — will be able to weigh in on be­half of the Amer­i­can peo­ple,” he said.

Sen. John McCain, Ari­zona Repub­li­can, ticked off a se­ries of Rus­sian ag­gres­sions that he said have gone with­out re­tal­i­a­tion: an­nex­a­tion of Crimea, in­ter­ven­tion in Syria, med­dling in Ukraine and threat­en­ing NATO coun­tries, as well as the U.S. elec­tion in­ter­fer­ence.

“But in the past eight months, what price has Rus­sia paid for at­tack­ing Amer­i­can democ­racy? Hardly any at all,” he said. “We must take our own side in this fight — not as Repub­li­cans, not as Democrats, but as Amer­i­cans.”

The full Iran sanc­tions bill must be ap­proved by the Se­nate, and then the whole pack­age will go to the House. Democrats de­manded that Mr. Trump com­mit to sign­ing the leg­is­la­tion.

Just two Repub­li­can sen­a­tors — Sens. Rand Paul of Ken­tucky and Mike Lee of Utah — voted against the Rus­sia sanc­tions amend­ment.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

ON NO­TICE: Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin is the main tar­get of sanc­tions be­ing writ­ten into bi­par­ti­san leg­is­la­tion that gives back con­trol to Con­gress.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin was de­nounced for ag­gres­sions in­clud­ing the an­nex­a­tion of Crimea, in­ter­ven­tion in the Syr­ian civil war, med­dling in Ukraine and threat­en­ing NATO coun­tries. What an­gered U.S. sen­a­tors the most in Wed­nes­day de­bate was his re­ported in­ter­fer­ence in the U.S. pres­i­den­tial elec­tion last year.

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