Senate Votes Up Anti-Russia Sanctions

Final approval of the bill came a day after a 97-2 vote in favor of an amendment to the Iran Sanctions bill that puts into law existing American sanctions against Russia, dealing not only with US protests over aggression in Crimea and Ukraine, but also in response to Russian cyber attacks linked to the 2016 elections.

It would beef up penalties imposed on Russian Federation for meddling in last year's election and initiate an extensive congressional review process should President Donald Trump move to ease or lift existing sanctions.

The Senate on Wednesday voted overwhelmingly - 97 to 2 - to add the Russian Federation measure to a bill sanctioning Iran for its work to develop ballistic missile technology, in a bipartisan rebuke to Trump's suggestions about improving relations with Russian Federation.

In December, the Obama administration responded to Russia's provocations with a slate of sweeping measures that included the expulsion of "intelligence operatives" and sanctions on Russia's central intelligence services.

In addition to Russia's cyber-attacks that helped it interfere in the United States elections, the reasons for tightening sanctions include responding to Russia's violation of Ukraine's and Crimea's territorial integrity, and its continuing aggression in Syria.

The vote was overshadowed by Wednesday's shooting at a congressional Republican baseball practice - two senators were there, Rand Paul and Jeff Flake of Arizona - but the Senate kept on its schedule, and the bill is expected to be passed by the end of the week.

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The administration official emphasized that the White House supports sanctions on Russian Federation and that the political ramifications of any veto have not been discussed yet.

To take effect, the measure would also have to pass the House of Representatives and be signed into law by Mr Trump.

"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", said Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer.

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said the overwhelming passage of the measure "sends a strong signal to President Vladimir Putin while ensuring the Trump administration has the flexibility it needs". "At this point, the only way to change Putin's cost-benefit analysis is to increase the pressure we apply directly through sanctions".

Yet a short time after the 97 - 2 vote for the legislation, there was already word that the Trump administration was seeking to weaken the bill. His fellow Republicans are putting him in a hard spot if they pass this, which surprises me very much. "I find as we get to the finish line on these bills, every administration generally joins us ... so I think we'll have the support of the administration".

The sanctions place restrictions on those aiding Russian Federation or Syria as well as on the Trump administration.

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