GOP chairman: Senate panel will 'deal with' Russia in June

Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Nareit — White House cheers Republicans for storming impeachment hearing GOP senators frustrated with Romney jabs at Trump Vulnerable senators hold the key to Trump's fate MORE (R-Tenn.) says the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will "deal with" Russia this month, including potentially slapping new financial sanctions on Moscow.

"We've had a very good day and I think we should make some progress, very good progress during this work period," Corker, the chairman of the committee, said on Tuesday evening.

The timeline would give lawmakers just under four weeks to come up with a Russia bill before they leave town at the end of the month for the week-long July 4 recess.

Asked if his prediction that the committee would "deal with" Russia this month specifically meant a sanctions bill or another kind of legislation, the GOP chairman said, "my guess is there will be a sanctions bill that deals with Russia during this work period."


But Corker has remained tightlipped about what could be included, declining multiple times on Tuesday to discuss the scope of the potential legislation or if it would include tougher sanctions against Moscow.

"We are going to deal with Russia and many Russian issues in this work period. I don't want to commit to anything specifically," he told reporters, asked if a bill could include penalties for Russia's meddling in the U.S. presidential election.

His comments come after he spoke with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Monday night. Sen. Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinOvernight Health Care: Democratic gains mark setback for Trump on Medicaid work requirements | Senate Dems give Warren 'Medicare for All' plan the cold shoulder | Judge strikes Trump rule on health care 'conscience' rights Democrats give Warren's 'Medicare for All' plan the cold shoulder Former NAACP president to run for Cummings's House seat MORE (D-Md.) also said he would met with Corker on Tuesday and could discuss Russia-related legislation.

Corker previously said his panel would take up new financial penalties unless the Trump administration can show progress in U.S.-Russian negotiations over Syria, where Moscow supports President Bashar Assad.

He added on Tuesday that he had a "good conversation" with Tillerson, but repeatedly described progress in Syria as "slow."

His comments are the latest sign that a long-stalled debate over imposing new financial penalties on Russia could be gaining new life in the Senate, where Corker and Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThis week: House kicks off public phase of impeachment inquiry Progressive veterans group launches campaign labeling Trump as a 'national security threat' GOP senators plan to tune out impeachment week MORE have held off supporting a bill.

Corker said last month that the committee wouldn't take up legislation in the foreseeable future, arguing it would only worsen the U.S.-Russia relationship.

He remained careful on Tuesday to avoid specifically backing new sanctions. Asked on Tuesday afternoon if the committee would take up financial penalties, he quipped back: "What sanctions bill? There is no sanctions bill."

Cardin and 19 other senators — including Sen. John CornynJohn CornynFalling investment revives attacks against Trump's tax cuts GOP senators plan to tune out impeachment week The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump says Dems shouldn't hold public hearings MORE, the No. 2 Senate Republican — have backed legislation that would impose harsher penalties on Russia for its election interference as well as ongoing conflicts in Syria and Ukraine.

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