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Senate passes Russian Federation sanctions bill, pushing back against Trump

The Senate voted Wednesday, by a 97-to-2 margin, to pass a measure that would toughen sanctions on Russian Federation and, in Republicans’ first significant blow to President Donald Trump’s agenda, prevent the White House from unilaterally easing or removing the sanctions imposed by President Barack Obama in 2014 and 2016.The Senate said the new measures were meant to punish Moscow for Russia’s violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, cyberattacks and interference in the 2016 USA elections.The US Senate voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to tighten sanctions on Russian Federation and prevent President Donald Trump from being able to unilaterally ease sanctions absent congressional approval.The bipartisan support for the year’s most significant GOP-backed limitation on Trump comes as the White House remains silent on the plan to sanction Moscow, even as President Putin pushes back at US intelligence officials’ conclusion that Russian actors conducted cyberattacks to disrupt the 2016 presidential election.It was introduced amid an intense focus in the United States capital on relations with Russian Federation, and investigations by the Department of Justice and congressional committees of whether Russian Federation sought to influence the 2016 elections to help elect Trump, and whether Trump associates colluded with Moscow as it sought to influence the election.This bill still must go to the House for consideration; it’s not clear whether it will be advanced by GOP leaders there, as the Trump Administration is not pleased with some of the details. It’s not the first time Congress has sought such a requirement, however, as a similar mechanism was passed in 2015 regarding sanctions on Iran after President Obama pursued his landmark nuclear deal with the country. House aides said they expected the chamber would begin to debate the measure in the coming weeks, although they could not predict when it might face a final vote.The Senate approved the bill 98-2, with Republican Rand Paul of Kentucky and Independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont voting against the measure.The new measures are presented in the form of an amendment to the draft law on the application of sanctions against Iran.During his presidency, Barack Obama placed restrictions on Russian Federation for the annexation of Crimea and tampering with the 2016 USA presidential election.The bill includes new sanctions on Iran over its ballistic missile program and “continued support for terrorism”.Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who once received an award from Russian President Vladimir Putin, earlier this week said the Trump administration would like “flexibility” in imposing sanctions as a tool to improve its relationship with Russia.A frequently polarized Senate has found common ground as Republicans and Democrats joined forces to approve a sweeping sanctions bill that uses an array of financial penalties to punish Iran and Russian Federation.Now the bill should be considered in the House of Representatives, and then it will be handed over to President Donald Trump for signature.The Trump administration is reviewing the Senate measure, according to a White House official, who asked for anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.