Tuesday, 6 June 2017
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is turning the Senate toward passing tougher Iran sanctions, potentially renewing a fight over financial penalties against Russia.
The Kentucky Republican teed up a procedural vote for Wednesday on the Iran Destabilizing Activities Act. If lawmakers drag out debate on the legislation, a final vote could take place as late as Thursday evening.
The Iran legislation has broad bipartisan support after months of negotiations and easily cleared the Foreign Relations Committee in late May. It would expand sanctions targeting Iran's ballistic missile development, support for terrorism any transfer of weapons and human rights violations.
But the bill could restart a stalled battle over imposing new financial penalties on Russia for its meddling in the 2016 election, as well as ongoing conflicts in Syria and Ukraine.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told reporters last month that he would try to add new Russia sanctions to an Iran bill if it made it to the Senate floor.
"I'm glad we're doing something on Iran [sanctions], but if the bill comes out of committee on the floor I'm going to add Russian sanctions to it. Try to anyway," Graham told reporters.
Graham has introduced a bill that would give Congress the chance to block Trump from lifting sanctions against Moscow. He's also part of a group of bipartisan senators who are backing legislation that would slap new penalties against Russia.
The GOP senator would need to get a deal to allow for a vote on adding Russia penalties to the Iran sanctions bill.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which Graham is not a member of, could also take up a Russia sanctions bill as soon as this summer, which could take pressure off of the Iran sanctions legislation.
Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said during a meeting late last month that the committee would take up new financial penalties unless Secretary of State Rex Tillerson can show progress in U.S.-Russian negotiations over Syria, where Moscow supports Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Corker is speaking to Tillerson on Monday evening. Asked if he would get an update on Russia sanctions, he told reporters "I will likely be discussing issues relative to Russia."