Dems play hardball on Russia sanctions
© Greg Nash

Top Senate Democrats are warning they could block a bipartisan Iran sanctions bill if it does not include tougher financial penalties on Moscow.

Sen. Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinIt's time for Congress to guarantee Medigap Health Insurance for vulnerable Americans with kidney disease Senators call for Smithsonian Latino, women's museums to be built on National Mall Democrats plow ahead as Manchin yo-yos MORE, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, will not agree to move the Iran bill to move forward on the floor "until there is a clear and satisfactory path forward on Russia sanctions," a senior aide to the Maryland Democrat said Thursday.

Senators voted to advance the Iran sanctions bill on Wednesday in a 91-8 vote, underscoring the bill's broad bipartisan support.
 
But lawmakers will need to take another procedural vote as early as Thursday evening, and Republicans will need at least 60 votes, including support from at least eight Democrats, to clear procedural hurdles.
 
Senate Minority Leader Chuck SchumerChuck SchumerSchumer mourns death of 'amazing' father Feehery: The honest contrarian Biden administration to release oil from strategic reserve: reports MORE (D-N.Y.) said on Thursday that he thought lawmakers could get a deal, but underlined the need for the Russian element.
 
"We on the Democratic side feel very strongly that we need a tough, effective package of Russia sanctions to move alongside Iran sanctions," he said.
 
 
"They're only giving us one chance to impose Russian sanctions and after what they did to us this last election we ought to seize this opportunity," he said. 
 
  
The Cardin-McCain bill would would slap financial penalties on Russia for its election interference, as well as ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and Syria. It would codify sanctions implemented under the Obama administration by executive order.
 
 
Most Republicans have held off from backing new Russia sanctions as they tried to give the Trump administration time to improve the U.S.-Russia relationship, which soured under the Obama administration, and make progress in Syria. 
 
But top Republicans are appearing increasingly confident this week that they will pass new penalties against Russia, even amid investigations into potential contacts between President Trump’s campaign and the Russian hackers who meddled in the presidential election.
 
 
The senior aide for Cardin downplayed the chances that a Russia proposal wouldn't be included, but added the Maryland Democrat wants to make sure what ends up in the Iran bill is "as strong as possible." 
 
"Lots of proposals circulating and some have seemed unsatisfactory to him," the aide said.