Senate panel could pass new Russia sanctions this summer

Greg Nash
Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, is opening the door to passing tougher sanctions against Russia as soon as this summer.
Corker said during a meeting on Thursday that the committee would take up new financial penalties unless the Trump administration can show progress in U.S.-Russian negotiations over Syria, where Moscow supports Syrian President Bashar Assad.
“I’ve committed to mark up Russia sanctions legislation in the event, the probable event, that the secretary of state cannot show us that there’s a change of trajectory,” Corker said during a business meeting, according to Reuters.
{mosads}The comments are a marked shift for Corker, who has held off backing new Russia penalties even as they’ve gained bipartisan support.
He said earlier this month that the committee wouldn’t take up legislation in the foreseeable future, arguing it would only worsen the U.S.-Russia relationship. He’s also warned against getting ahead of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation into Moscow’s election interference and possible collusion with President Trump’s campaign. 
Sen. Ben Cardin (Md.), the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, confirmed Corker’s comments in a statement. 
“I welcome Chairman Corker’s commitment that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will mark up a sanctions bill on Russia after the Senate returns from the Memorial Day recess in June, pending a discussion with Secretary Tillerson … and take committee action in time for the bill to move to the Senate floor before the July 4th recess,” he said. 
The Senate has left town for the weeklong Memorial Day recess and won’t return to Washington until June 5. It’ll be in Washington for less than a month before they leave for a weeklong July 4 recess. 
Cardin noted that if Tillerson doesn’t speak with committee members during the first week of June, he’s expected to testify publicly “shortly after the next work period begins.” 
Corker didn’t specify during the business meeting what financial penalties could be included in new Russia sanctions, according to multiple reports

But Cardin has teamed up with GOP senators on legislation to slap new financial penalties on Russia over its meddling in the presidential election and ongoing conflicts in Russia and Syria.

GOP supporters of the bill include Sens. Marco Rubio (Fla.), Todd Young (Ind.), Rob Portman (Ohio) and Cory Gardner (Colo.) — who are each on the Foreign Relations Committee — as well as Sen. John Cornyn (Texas), the No. 2 Senate Republican.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has also offered legislation that would allow Congress to block Trump from lifting current Russia sanctions. 

Asked what the U.S. position is on Russia sanctions, Gary Cohn, the director of Trump’s National Economic Council, told reporters on Thursday: “I think the president is looking at it. Right now, we don’t have a position.”

Tags Ben Cardin Bob Corker Cory Gardner John Cornyn Lindsey Graham Marco Rubio Rob Portman Todd Young

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