McCain 'looking at other options' to pass Russia sanctions

McCain 'looking at other options' to pass Russia sanctions
© Greg Nash

Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMcCain rips Trump for attacks on press NSA spying program overcomes key Senate hurdle Meghan McCain says her father regrets opposition to MLK Day MORE (R-Ariz.) said Tuesday that lawmakers are exploring how to move Russia sanctions legislation forward after a key Republican backed holding off on new financial penalties against Moscow.

"We will be looking at other options including the Senate Armed Services Committee," McCain, who chairs that committee, told reporters.

Asked if he was looking at trying to move Russia sanctions legislation through the Banking Committee, the Arizona Republican demurred but added that he, Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamDHS chief takes heat over Trump furor Overnight Defense: GOP chair blames Dems for defense budget holdup | FDA, Pentagon to speed approval of battlefield drugs | Mattis calls North Korea situation 'sobering' Bipartisan group to introduce DACA bill in House MORE (R-S.C.) and "others will be looking hard at other options."

McCain's comments come as Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerSenate campaign fundraising reports roll in Congress should take the lead on reworking a successful Iran deal North Korea tensions ease ahead of Winter Olympics MORE (R-Tenn.) signaled this week that the Foreign Relations Committee will hold off on taking up new Russia sanctions legislation.

Corker, who chairs the Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters on Tuesday that he wanted to give the administration time to determine the "trajectory" of U.S.-Russia relations, which he said are at an "all time low."

"We can take it to a lower level by adding sanctions. That you know might make us feel good, but that's not an outcome that I think is good for our country," he told reporters.

A bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation earlier this year that would slap new financial penalties on Russia over its meddling in the presidential election and ongoing conflicts in Russia and Syria.

Graham also introduced legislation earlier this year that would require congressional oversight before Trump could left Russia sanctions.

Though both bills have bipartisan support they've stalled in the Foreign Relations Committee.

Corker noted that the Banking Committee had previously considered sanctions bill.

"Many times those types of bills go through the Banking Committee ... and [they] may well do that," he said.

Corker left the door open on Tuesday to passing additional sanctions legislation in the future if the Trump administration isn't able to improve its relationship with Moscow.

But McCain argued that delaying Russia sanctions could signal to Russian President Vladimir Putin that he's getting a "blank check."

McCain and Graham also said in a joint statement that "now is not the time to send a signal to Russia that all is forgotten or forgiven."

"It is time for the Senate to take real action, including increased sanctions, to punish Russia’s destabilizing behavior and counter its malign influence," Graham and McCain said. 

The Trump administration has been hesitant to take firm action against Moscow, though the president's rhetoric against Russia has toughened since the campaign, where he repeatedly praised Putin and suggested that the U.S. would pursue friendly relations. 

This story was updated at 2:17 p.m.