The White House will reach out to House Republicans to bring changes favored by the Trump administration to legislation approved by the Senate this week that places tougher sanctions on Russian Federation, according to news reports Saturday.
Lawmakers have long sought to hit Iran with more sanctions in order to check its ballistic missile program and rebuke Tehran's continued support for terrorist groups.
Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Rand Paul, R-Ky., voted against the sanctions package.
The measure will now go to the House of Representatives where the path forward is not clear. "The Foreign Affairs Committee is reviewing the details in this latest sanctions package being voted on in the Senate, and after that we will determine a path ahead in the House". From the Senate, the bill still has to be approved by the House and then by President Trump to become law.
The White House stressed that it is committed to the existing Russian sanctions regime that it believes is best suited to address United States concerns and would keep sanctions in place until Russia resolves the situation in Ukraine. Asked if they felt handcuffed by the Senate actions, Sanders demurred, saying that because the process was still ongoing, there was no final product to weigh in on.
The vote to strengthen sanctions against Russia - which Senators on both parties made clear was created to send a message on Russian meddling in the 2016 elections - came hours after President Donald Trump had again mocked the investigation surrounding those charges. "The United States of America needs to send a strong message to [Russian President] Vladimir Putin and any other aggressor that we will not tolerate attacks on our democracy".
That's a realistic threat, despite confidence from Israeli lobbyists that it would not, as the bill was largely an attempt to sneak sanctions the USA was obliged to lift from Iran as part of the nuclear deal back in as part of punishing Iran for "non-nuclear" actions, and those leading the charge were opponents of the P5+1 deal in the first place. Testifying this week on Capitol Hill, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson acknowledged the need to take action against Russian Federation but warned against measures that would cut off dialogue with Moscow.
"I would hope to allow the diplomatic efforts to attempt to make some progress", Tillerson said earlier this week.
Mr Putin said that Russian Federation would be forced to make changes because of the sanctions, but they would not lead to a "collapse".
But the Senate moved forward anyway. Bob Corker (R-TN), the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who noted that in many ways it was developed "under the radar" because it was bipartisan in nature.
A frequently polarized Senate found common ground Thursday as Republicans and Democrats joined forces to approve a sweeping sanctions bill that punishes longtime adversaries Iran and Russian Federation with an array of financial penalties. It sanctions Russian government officials, their relatives and close associates deemed to be responsible for "significant corruption" in Russia and elsewhere, and those who who work for or on behalf of the Russian defense and intelligence sectors, those who invest or support the construction of Russian energy export pipelines, and corrupt government officials who enrich themselves after making deals to privatize state-owned assets. They also target Russia's shipping, mining, and railway industries. Bernie Sanders. Sanders says he's anxious the legislation, which also includes sanctions against Iran, could hurt the Iranian nuclear deal.