McConnell: New Russia sanctions an 'initial step'
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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - House to vote to condemn Trump tweet GOP put on the back foot by Trump's race storm Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA —Biden unveils health care plan | Proposal pitches subsidies, public option | Biden vows if you like your health insurance, 'you can keep it' | Sanders protests planned Philadelphia hospital closure 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 TrumpEsper sidesteps question on whether he aligns more with Mattis or Trump Warren embraces Thiel label: 'Good' As tensions escalate, US must intensify pressure on Iran and the IAEA 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 RyanOcasio-Cortez top aide emerges as lightning rod amid Democratic feud Juan Williams: GOP in a panic over Mueller House Republicans dismissive of Paul Ryan's take on Trump 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 CardinCan new US Strategy on Women, Peace & Security give women a real seat at the table? Ask Afghan women Maryland lawmakers slam 'despicable' Trump remark about journalists on newsroom shooting anniversary Democrats leery of Sanders plan to cancel student loan debt MORE (D-Md.) said Thursday that he will introduce legislation in January that will include "comprehensive enhanced sanctions." Meanwhile, Sens. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainThe peculiar priorities of Adam Schiff Ocasio-Cortez fires back at Lindsey Graham: 'Graham wants to bring back 1950s McCarthyism' Meghan McCain knocks Lindsey Graham for defending Trump's tweets: 'This is not the person I used to know' MORE (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamWhy Trump's bigoted tropes won't work in 2020 The Memo: Toxic 2020 is unavoidable conclusion from Trump tweets GOP put on the back foot by Trump's race storm 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.