WASHINGTON — A frequently polarized Senate on Thursday again found common ground over sanctions as Republicans and Democrats overwhelmingly approved a sweeping sanctions bill that punishes longtime adversaries Iran and Russia with an array of financial penalties.
The bipartisan legislation passed overwhelmingly Thursday, 98-2, more than five months after US intelligence agencies determined Moscow had deliberately interfered in the 2016 presidential campaign. Lawmakers have long sought to hit Iran with more sanctions to check its ballistic missile program and rebuke Tehran’s continued support for terrorist groups. On Wednesday, senators had passed the Russian amendment to the Iranian bill, 97-2.
The decisive bipartisan votes could put the Trump administration in a bind. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has offered only tepid support for the Russia sanctions package. Yet those penalties are melded with the Iran punishments. So the White House would have to reject stricter punishments against Iran, which it favors, to derail the Russia penalties.
The legislation, which now moves to the House, also gives Capitol Hill a much stronger hand in determining Russia sanctions policy. The bill would require a congressional review if President Trump attempts to ease or end penalties against Moscow.
The Senate bill also would cement in law a series of executive orders signed by Obama and aimed at punishing Russia for aggressive behavior, including its 2014 annexation of Crimea and support for separatist rebels in Ukraine’s east.