In a almost unanimous vote, the U.S. Senate on Thursday approved new sanctions against Iran and Russian Federation that also limit President Donald Trump's administration from weakening existing sanctions against Moscow.
The legislation would expand sanctions for Iranian ballistic missile development, support for terrorism, transfers of conventional weapons to or from Iran, and human rights violations.
The measure would punish individuals who conduct what the senators described as "malicious cyber activity on behalf of the Russian government".
The measure also asserts a role for Congress if the White House opts to ease any sanctions against Moscow.
Corker told reporters that "I only have talked a little bit with" Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who testified twice this week that the White House would prefer "flexibility" to adjust Russian Federation sanctions as needed.
During the hearing Wednesday, Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson urged senators to oppose the measure so that Trump and his administration would have "the flexibility to turn the heat up" if necessary.
However, with the bill heading to the House, it appears that the White House is now working with House Republicans to weaken the legislation and restore President Donald Trump's power over the sanctions.
The bill, imposing another round of sanctions on Russian Federation, was passed in a 97-2 vote on Wednesday and is yet to be considered by the House of Representatives.
In a statement, Sanders said that he opposed the bill not because of the new Russian Federation sanctions, which he supports, but because of the additional sanctions against Iran that were also part of the bill.
The only two votes against the Russia-Iran sanctions deal came from GOP Sens.
It's not clear what exact changes the White House wants to make to the bill, or that those changes would actually weaken the proposed penalties against Russian Federation, but Senate Democrats have been attempting to sound an alarm over just that possibility.
- Allow broad new sanctions on key sectors of Russia's economy, including mining, metals, shipping and railways.
Despite Russia's bellicosity, there's been no forceful response from President Donald Trump. The Senate's move sent a clear signal to the White House that any conciliatory actions toward the Kremlin would have to go through Congress.
Earlier this month, Yahoo News reported that the Trump administration secretly tried to eliminate Russia's economic sanctions. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., the Foreign Relations Committee chairman, said the amendment's final language precluded that.
Today's vote was the most significant blow the Republican President has received from the Republican Congress.