Senate backs measure limiting president's power to lift sanctions


The US Senate voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday for new sanctions punishing Russian Federation for meddling in the 2016 US election, and to force President Donald Trump to get Congress' approval before easing any existing sanctions.

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

Former FBI Director James Comey warned that Russian Federation is "coming after America", and will unquestionably continue to influence our elections in the future - through weaponizing social media, as it did in 2016, and through cyber attacks on the nation's election infrastructure.

Senator Chuck Schumer (Democrat-New York) said, "Any idea of the president's that he can lift sanctions on his own for whatever reason are dashed by this legislation". Trump has said he wants to improve U.S. -Russia relations and has expressed foreign policy views on a number of topics that are friendlier to Russian interests than the policies of past U.S. administrations.

The Senate vote was welcomed by both Republicans and Democrats.

The sanctions follow the scandalous departure of Michael Flynn as Trump's national security advisor. "Russians guilty of conducting cyber attacks or supplying weapons to Syria's government", according to Reuters.

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The congressional review measure is part of a wider deal that would not only strengthen those existing sanctions, but also enact new ones. "We can have congressional hearings, we can put a spotlight on it". During that process, the sanctions will remain in place unless the Congress votes in agreement with the President.

Then-President Barack Obama in late December ordered sanctions on Russian spy agencies, closed two Russian compounds and expelled 35 diplomats the US said were really spies.

“These additional sanctions will also send a powerful and bipartisan statement to Russian Federation and any other country who might try to interfere in our elections that they will be punished, ” Schumer added. But Corker said his patience ran out after he reviewed classified intelligence that showed "no difference whatsoever" in Russia's behavior, especially in Syria.

In order for the bill to become law, it must still pass the US House of Representatives and be signed by Trump.

"We would ask for the flexibility to turn the heat up when we need to, but also to ensure that we have the ability to maintain a constructive dialogue", he said.

Thursday's legislation punishes Iran for its ballistic missile testing and human rights violations, and applies terrorism sanctions to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).