The Senate, in a rare demonstration of bipartisanship, is crafting legislation that responds to Russia’s interference in the U.S. election last fall. The legislation, if it passes the House and is signed into law by President Trump, will do the following:
- The sanctions imposed by the Obama administration would become law making it more difficult for the Trump administration to change or lift them.
- There would be additional sanctions included in the final agreement, though they have not been finalized.
- Changes in the sanctions would need to be reviewed by Congress.
According to Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) the legislation has three goals. “Throughout these negotiations, Democrats have insisted that a Russia sanctions amendment accomplishes three things: codify the existing sanctions in law, impose tough new sanctions in response to Russian meddling in our elections, and give Congress a process to review whether they should be lifted.”
The legislation faces an uncertain future in the House and it could be vetoed by President Trump – though the optics of vetoing legislation that is designed to punish Russia further might stay the president’s veto pen. Or maybe not – this president has been inconsistently concerned with optics when it comes to Russia.
The Trump administration, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in particular, has signaled opposition to the legislation citing a concern that it decreases flexibility the administration would like to have if tensions with Russia continue to increase. Tillerson further argues that the sanctions would have the added effect of inhibiting greater cooperation with Russia with regard to Syria and terrorist threats.
The fact that the Senate is advancing legislation that codifies foreign policy might signal that they are not wholly confident that the administration intends to act fully in the interests of America.
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