Senators are preparing to unveil legislation next week the would crack down on Russia amid allegations that Moscow meddled in the White House race.
Sen. Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinBiden to huddle with Senate Democrats as voting bill on brink of defeat US budget deficit narrows sharply Senate Democrats grow less confident in Manchin MORE (Md.), the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, is leading the effort on a new sanctions bill to push back against Russia, in response to hacking as well as ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and Syria.
A Cardin staffer said Friday that the Maryland Democrat is working with Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainRedistricting reform key to achieving the bipartisanship Americans claim to want Kelly takes under-the-radar approach in Arizona Senate race Voting rights, Trump's Big Lie, and Republicans' problem with minorities MORE (R-Ariz.), as well as other colleagues on both sides of the aisle, to iron out the language of the bill and finalize a list of co-sponsors.
Cardin said his legislation would back President Obama's actions last month but also take measures a step further.
"It will provide significantly greater sanction effectiveness so that we can get more economic impact against Russia. It will go further in regard to the individuals who should be sanctioned for their activities," he told a Maryland radio station on Friday.
Obama imposed sanctions on two major Russian intelligence agencies and officials, expelled 35 Russian officials from the U.S. and closed down two U.S. facilities believed to have been used by Russian intelligence operatives.
President-elect Donald TrumpDonald TrumpKinzinger welcomes baby boy Tennessee lawmaker presents self-defense bill in 'honor' of Kyle Rittenhouse Five things to know about the New York AG's pursuit of Trump MORE, who was briefed Friday on the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and others by Russia, has previously dismissed the need for further sanctions, saying late last month it was time to "move on."
Incoming White House press secretary Sean Spicer also questioned over the weekend if the Obama administration's sanctions were an overstep.
Cardin acknowledged on Friday that he couldn't force the incoming administration to apply the sanctions.
"It will be pretty directive from how we word it but there's always a separation of powers and the ability of the administration to carry out laws," he told The Hill, asked if the new penalties would be mandatory.
Cardin, who confirmed that he is releasing the legislation next week, added there would be "some form" of a national security waiver, which is typically included and allows the administration to waive the sanctions.
Democrats, as well as some Republicans, have publicly fretted for months about Trump's warmer tone toward Russian President Vladimir Putin and pledged to take a tougher stance than the incoming administration.
McCain, who is working with Cardin on the legislation, called Moscow's meddling in the election an "act of war."
He and Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamKyrsten Sinema's courage, Washington hypocrisy and the politics of rage Hillicon Valley: Amazon's Alabama union fight — take two McConnell will run for another term as leader despite Trump's attacks MORE (R-S.C.), a close ally who is also on the Senate Armed Services Committee, are poised to be the most vocal GOP critics of Trump's Russia policy in Congress.
McCain pushed back against skepticism that Republicans would be willing to support a Russia sanctions bill, telling reporters "I think you're going to find quite a few co-sponsors on the sanctions bill."
The Armed Services Committee held a hearing on Thursday with top administration officials including James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, that focused on the Russia hacks.
"That hearing ... gave a great boost to sanctions," McCain said. "[It] resolved any doubts into what the intelligence part of the government thinks."
But Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerRepublicans, ideology, and demise of the state and local tax deduction Cheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP How leaving Afghanistan cancels our post-9/11 use of force MORE (R-Tenn.), the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, appeared to break with McCain on Friday, stressing he wants to see an intelligence report being released to Congress Monday to understand the "extent" and "intent" of Moscow.
"If you have two countries that are doing the same thing to each other, collecting information, how can one country accuse the other country of an act of war if you're doing exactly the same thing?" he questioned.
He added "when you put in place sanctions you've got to make sure you're sanctioning a country for something that you yourself are not doing."