McConnell: New Russia sanctions an 'initial step'
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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMaher goes after Manchin: 'Most powerful Republican in the Senate' Supreme Court confounding its partisan critics Why the Democrats need Joe Manchin 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 TrumpEx-DOJ official Rosenstein says he was not aware of subpoena targeting Democrats: report Ex-Biden adviser says Birx told him she hoped election turned out 'a certain way' Cheney rips Arizona election audit: 'It is an effort to subvert democracy' 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 RyanZaid Jilani: Paul Ryan worried about culture war distracting from issues 'that really concern him' The Memo: Marjorie Taylor Greene exposes GOP establishment's lack of power The Hill's 12:30 Report - Senators back in session after late-night hold-up 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 CardinAntsy Democrats warn of infrastructure time crunch 'SECURE 2.0' will modernize retirement security for the post-COVID American workforce Bipartisan group of senators introduces surface transportation bill MORE (D-Md.) said Thursday that he will introduce legislation in January that will include "comprehensive enhanced sanctions." Meanwhile, Sens. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMeghan McCain: Harris 'sounded like a moron' discussing immigration Arizona AG Mark Brnovich launches Senate challenge to Mark Kelly Arizona Democrats launch voter outreach effort ahead of key Senate race MORE (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamProgressives want to tighten screws beyond Manchin and Sinema GOP senators applaud Biden for global vaccine donation plans Lindsey Graham: Dismissal of Wuhan lab leak theory cost Trump 2020 election 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.