US Senate passes bipartisan sanctions bill penalizing Russia, Iran

Nicholas Kamm  Getty Images

Nicholas Kamm Getty Images

The measure would then apply new sanctions against Russian Federation for its activities in Syria, where the Kremlin is supporting the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and for its meddling in last year's USA presidential election.

These latest sanctions are in retaliation for Russia's interference in last year's presidential election.

On Wednesday, the Senate voted overwhelmingly, 97-2, to impose sanctions on Russian Federation for interfering in the 2016 presidential election. It also imposes new sanctions in a number of categories, including those "conducting malicious cyber activity on behalf of the Russian government" and "supplying weapons to the Assad regime".

By tying Iran and Russian Federation together, Congress has made it more hard for Trump to oppose the action. Brown also said the veto-proof vote on the sanctions package should send a strong signal to the White House.

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The bill - which passed by a 97-2 margin - includes language that would prevent President Trump from lifting the sanctions without Congressional approval.

The only senators who voted against the measure were Republicans Rand Paul and Mike Lee.

The sanctions against Russian Federation are "in response to the violation of the territorial integrity of the Ukraine and Crimea, its brazen cyber-attacks and interference in elections, and its continuing aggression in Syria", according to the sponsors.

Under President Obama, top White House officials warned that sanctions would be unsafe to the legitimacy of the nuclear deal signed with Iran. From the Senate, the bill still has to be approved by the House and then by President Trump to become law. Yet in a hearing this week, he said the administration would like "flexibility to adjust sanctions to meet the needs of what is always an evolving diplomatic situation".

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"I think we all agree this has been a rather partisan beginning to a new administration".

- Allow broad new sanctions on key sectors of Russia's economy, including mining, metals, shipping and railways. "But I believe that these new sanctions could endanger the very important nuclear agreement that was signed between the United States, its partners and Iran in 2015". The White House has not yet released a statement on the president's reaction to the sanctions bill.

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.

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