Senate overwhelmingly approves deal that can stop Trump from lifting Russia sanctions

The Senate almost-unanimously voted to advance a bipartisan deal which imposes new sanctions on Russia and allows Congress to intervene if President Trump tries to reverse Russian sanctions.

The deal was voted 97-2 to attach the Russian sanctions deal onto a preexisting Iran sanctions bill which is expected to pass as early as this week.

The new legislation would impose financial penalties on any individuals giving weapons to Syrian President Assad’s government or those involved with “malicious cyber activity.” The bill would also allow Congress to review and potentially halt any efforts made by the Trump administration to remove sanctions on Russia.

According to a January HuffPost/YouGov poll, 42% of Americans think Trump should keep the Obama-era sanctions in place, compared to only 26% saying he should reverse them (with 32% unsure).

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson cautioned Congress against impeding the Trump administration’s “constructive dialogue” with Russia, saying “I would urge Congress to ensure any legislation allows the president to have the flexibility to adjust sanctions.”

Senate Republicans had largely been holding off on adding new sanctions to give the Trump administration some leeway for negotiations, but intensifying speculation into the nature of the administration’s relationship with the foreign power as well as Russia’s continued backing of Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad seems to have pushed the Senate into action.

“We must take our own side in this fight. Not as Republicans, not as Democrats, but as Americans. It’s time to respond to Russia’s attack on American democracy with strength, with resolve, with common purpose, and with action,” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said before today’s vote.

Nathan Wellman is a Los Angeles-based journalist, author, and playwright. His less-political Youtube channel can be found here. Follow him on Twitter: @LightningWOW