USA senators last night introducing a provision meant to punish Moscow for its alleged meddling in the 2016 United States election, its annexation of Ukraine's Crimea and for support for the government of Syria.
The agreement, which passed through the Senate's Banking and Foreign Relations Committees, would add new and tougher sanctions against the Russian government for the invasion of Crimea in 2014, its cyber warfare campaign during the presidential campaign previous year, and its support for Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.
The bill would also require the president to seek congressional permission to relax the current regime of sanctions against Russian Federation, possibly limiting President Donald Trump's leeway to improve relations between Washington and Moscow.
But when asked whether the White House would support the Senate's proposed congressional review of any changes to Russian Federation sanctions, spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters: "The administration is committed to existing sanctions against Russian Federation and will keep them in place until Moscow fully honors its commitments to resolve the crisis in Ukraine". The deal was also worked out with Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee Chair Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Ranking Member Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Foreign Relations Ranking Member Ben Cardin (D-Maryland).
Senators have struck a deal to put a comprehensive Russian Federation sanctions bill on the floor this week, according to those negotiating the legislation.
"Since the Kremlin interfered in our elections, this is the most promising opportunity to pass sanctions legislation with teeth", Sen.
The bipartisan agreement comes in the form of an amendment to legislation the Senate is already considering on sanctions for Iran.
Several lawmakers are involved in the talks, including Cardin, Corker, Graham, top members of the Senate Banking Committee and Sen.
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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.
In any event, Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) took to the floor to praise the deal.
Now, these sanctions aren't a done deal yet.
With the Trump team now under scrutiny for contacts with the Russians during the campaign, many lawmakers are anxious that the White House is looking to ease up on that pressure.
In December, the final full month of President Barack Obama's administration, Washington sanctioned Russian businessmen and companies for Moscow's role in Ukraine via executive order.
The president has said he hopes he can forge closer ties with Moscow - a goal unlikely to be met with sanctions in place.
The U.S. relationship with Russian Federation is at an all-time low and deteriorating further, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Tuesday, yet he cautioned against taking steps that might close off promising avenues of communication between the two former Cold War foes.