McConnell: New Russia sanctions an 'initial step'
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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOn The Money: Unemployment gains lower than expected | Jobs report lights fire under coronavirus relief talks GOP senators back Christian school's push for COVID-19 carve-out Bipartisan governors call on Congress to pass coronavirus relief package 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 TrumpAppeals court OKs White House diverting military funding to border wall construction Pentagon: Tentative meeting between spy agencies, Biden transition set for early next week Conservative policy director calls Section 230 repeal an 'existential threat' for tech 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 RyanMcCarthy woos Freedom Caucus with eye on Speakership American Greatness editor on how Trump's abandonment of populism affected 2020 election Paul Ryan calls for Trump to accept results: 'The election is over' 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 CardinDemocratic senators urge Facebook to take action on anti-Muslim bigotry On The Money: Biden, Democratic leaders push for lame-duck coronavirus deal | Business groups shudder at Sanders as Labor secretary | Congress could pass retirement bill as soon as this year Top Democrat: Congress could pass retirement bill as soon as this year MORE (D-Md.) said Thursday that he will introduce legislation in January that will include "comprehensive enhanced sanctions." Meanwhile, Sens. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainSmearing presidential election will turn off young voters and undermine democracy Choking — not cheating — was Trump's undoing Gabby Giffords congratulates Mark Kelly with throwback photo of her own swearing-in MORE (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGraham reports 'record-breaking' 9M haul during 2020 campaign Lawmakers pressure leaders to reach COVID-19 relief deal Biden: Trump attending inauguration is 'of consequence' to the country 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.