Senators float trade sanctions against Russia over Snowden

A Senate panel on Thursday approved a State Department funding bill with a provision aimed at pressuring Russia to reject asylum for National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden.

The provision, authored by Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamA guide to the committees: Senate Cheney to intro Pence at Jewish GOP event CEOs come to defense of border tax plan MORE (R-S.C.), was adopted unanimously by the Senate Appropriations Committee. It states that if Snowden is granted asylum, then the secretary of State must consult with Congress on possible sanctions.

“The Committee notes that certain countries have offered asylum to Edward Snowden, an American citizen who divulged classified information to the press. The Committee directs the Secretary of State to consult with the appropriate congressional committees on sanction options against any country that provides asylum to Mr. Snowden, including revocation or suspension of trade privileges and preferences,” the Graham amendment states.

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The language of the Graham amendment stops well short of actually imposing sanctions. Furthermore, Russia is now a member of the World Trade Organization, so trade sanctions by the U.S. could invite WTO-approved retaliation.

Graham has been a leading critic of Russia's handling of Snowden, and has said President Obama should consider boycotting the Winter Olympics next year in Sochi, Russia, if the country decides to harbor him.

Snowden remains at an airport in Moscow and is seeking documents to travel in Russia.

Graham's sanctions provision is now part of the Senate’s funding bill for the State Department in 2014, which was approved by the full committee on Thursday.

Overall, the State Department and foreign operations appropriations title spends $50.6 billion. That is $10 billion more than the House is proposing, but a cut of $2.7 billion from 2013.

The bill passed committee on a 23 to 7 vote.

Seven Republicans joined Democrats in approving the bill, underscoring GOP divisions on spending cuts to the budget next year. They were: Sens. Susan CollinsSusan CollinsA guide to the committees: Senate Pruitt sworn in as EPA chief Comey meets Intel senators amid uproar over Trump-Russia ties MORE (Maine), Thad CochranThad CochranA guide to the committees: Senate Mulvaney sworn in as White House budget chief Senate confirms Mulvaney to be Trump’s budget chief MORE (Miss.), Lisa MurkowskiLisa MurkowskiA guide to the committees: Senate Public lands dispute costs Utah a major trade show Oprah's network provides Senate with tape of abuse allegations by Puzder's ex-wife: report MORE (Alaska), Graham, Mark KirkMark KirkThe Hill's 12:30 Report Trump, judges on collision course GOP senator: Don't link Planned Parenthood to ObamaCare repeal MORE (Ill.), Roy BluntRoy BluntA guide to the committees: Senate Judiciary Committee wants briefing, documents on Flynn resignation Intel Dem: House GOP now open to investigating Flynn MORE (Mo.) and Jerry MoranJerry MoranA guide to the committees: Senate Verizon, Yahoo slash merger deal by 0M over data breaches Verizon angling to lower price of Yahoo purchase: report MORE (Kan.)

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Ranking Member Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) said he voted against the bill because it contributes to a $1.058 trillion topline level of 2014 spending that exceeds the level imposed by sequestration.

Graham said he is proud of the bill and especially new restrictions on aid to Egypt after the ouster of president Mohamed Morsi.

“Is it a coup? Sounds like it to me,” he said. “Having said that Egypt was running down a dangerous road under Morsi.”

The bill divides up the $1.3 billion in military aid to Egypt into four pieces and conditions 75 percent of it of various democratization steps.

The committee adopted several controversial amendments.

One, adopted by a 19 to 11 vote, was authored by Sen. Mary LandrieuMary LandrieuFive unanswered questions after Trump's upset victory Pavlich: O’Keefe a true journalist Trump’s implosion could cost GOP in Louisiana Senate race MORE (D-La.) would allow funding for UNESCO for a specific Louisiana project, despite a ban on UNESCO dealings due to their recognition of Palestine.

Another, passed 17 to 12, would fund International Criminal Court efforts to prosecute Lord’s Resistance Army leader Joseph Kony.

Finally an amendment by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen Jeanne ShaheenA guide to the committees: Senate Mattis on rise in Trump administration Scott Brown being considered for ambassador to New Zealand: report MORE (D-N.H.) would permanently end the so-called global gag rule that, before suspended by President Obama, would cut off funding for international groups that also promote abortion.

It passed 19 to 11.