McConnell: New Russia sanctions an 'initial step'
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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenators introduce bill to overhaul sexual harassment policy The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by PhRMA — Republicans see some daylight in midterm polling Exclusive: Bannon says Rosenstein could be fired 'very shortly' MORE (R-Ky.) on Thursday called new sanctions against Russia an "initial step" but reiterated that lawmakers will review Moscow's meddling in the U.S. presidential election next year.  

"Sanctions against the Russian intelligence services are a good initial step, however late in coming," he said in a statement. "As the next Congress reviews Russian actions against networks associated with the U.S. election, we must also work to ensure that any attack against the United States is met with an overwhelming response.”
 
McConnell has backed allowing the Senate Intelligence Committee to probe the CIA's finding that Russia interfered in the White House race to help secure President-elect Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpOn North Korea, give Trump some credit Exclusive: Bannon says Rosenstein could be fired 'very shortly' GOP dissidents on cusp of forcing immigration votes MORE's victory. The Senate Armed Services Committee is expected to dig into intelligence agencies' findings, as well as hold broader hearings on cybersecurity. 
 
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McConnell added that the Russians "are not our friends" and suggested the Obama administration has fallen short in preventing Moscow from meddling in U.S. politics.
 
"Clearly the Obama administration has not yet dissuaded them from attempting to breach our cybersecurity systems, or harass our diplomats in Moscow," he said. 
 
He also accused President Obama of reacting "passively" to a resurgent Russia, and relying too heavily on rhetoric to defend U.S. foreign policy interests. 
 
"Countries unfriendly to the United States have employed cyberattacks, coercion, relied on proxy forces and have harassed American ships and aircraft," the Senate Republican leader said. 

The Obama administration announced a slate of economic sanctions on Thursday, targeting two of Russia’s main intelligence organizations — the GRU and the FSB — four individual GRU officers, three companies that provided support to the GRU, and six individuals implicated in the campaign over its meddling in the U.S. election.

The White House is also expelling 35 Russian intelligence operatives from the country and closing two facilities used by the Russians.

McConnell's counterpart in the House, Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanDischarge petition efforts intensify as leadership seeks unity Republicans fear retribution for joining immigration revolt Immigration petition hits 204 as new Republican signs on MORE (R-Wis.), separately called the sanctions an "overdue" step from the administration. 

Senators in both parties are pledging to push for additional sanctions against Russia next year. 

Sen. Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinSenate panel unanimously approves water infrastructure bill Kim Jong Un surprises with savvy power plays Overnight Energy: EPA moves to roll back chemical plant safety rule | NASA chief says humans contribute to climate change | Pruitt gets outside lawyer MORE (D-Md.) said Thursday that he will introduce legislation in January that will include "comprehensive enhanced sanctions." Meanwhile, Sens. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainFor .2 billion, taxpayers should get more than Congress’s trial balloons Overnight Defense: Pompeo lays out new Iran terms | Pentagon hints at more aggressive posture against Iran | House, Senate move on defense bill Senate GOP urges Trump administration to work closely with Congress on NAFTA MORE (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Sponsored by Delta Air Lines — GOP centrists in striking distance of immigration vote Dem leaders request bipartisan meeting on Russia probe Senate GOP urges Trump administration to work closely with Congress on NAFTA MORE (R-S.C.) said in a joint statement that they will "lead the effort" to impose stronger sanctions. 

The move could set up Congress to butt heads with the incoming Trump administration. Lawmakers have publicly worried for months that Trump will be too friendly with Russian President Vladimir Putin. 
 
Trump has repeatedly dismissed reports that the CIA believes Russia meddled in the election to help him win. He told reporters on Wednesday that he thinks "we ought to get on with our lives" when asked about sanctions.