McConnell calls for Senate hearings on Russia sanctions

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDems ready aggressive response to Trump emergency order, as GOP splinters Green New Deal Resolution invites big picture governing ‘Contingency’ spending in 3B budget deal comes under fire MORE (R-Ky.) on Thursday said he has asked two key Senate panels to hold hearings on Russia sanctions and make suggestions for legislation.

McConnell met with Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerSasse’s jabs at Trump spark talk of primary challenger RNC votes to give Trump 'undivided support' ahead of 2020 Sen. Risch has unique chance to guide Trump on foreign policy MORE (R-Tenn.) and Banking Committee Chairman Mike CrapoMichael (Mike) Dean CrapoOn The Money: Lawmakers race to pass border deal | Trump rips 'stingy' Democrats, but says shutdown would be 'terrible' | Battle over contractor back pay | Banking panel kicks off data security talks Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers press officials on 2020 election security | T-Mobile, Sprint execs defend merger before Congress | Officials charge alleged Iranian spy | Senate panel kicks off talks on data security bill Senate Banking panel kicks off talks on data security bill MORE (R-Idaho) on Wednesday night to discuss steps to advance legislation following President TrumpDonald John TrumpGillibrand backs federal classification of third gender: report Former Carter pollster, Bannon ally Patrick Caddell dies at 68 Heather Nauert withdraws her name from consideration for UN Ambassador job MORE's meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki earlier this week.

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"I tasked the chairmen of the Banking and Foreign Relations committees with holding hearings on the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, and to recommend to the Senate additional measures that could respond to or deter Russian malign behavior," McConnell said in a statement Thursday.

Congress overwhelmingly passed Russia sanctions last year as part of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, despite pushback from the White House.

Senate leadership is under growing pressure to pass additional sanctions legislation following the Trump-Putin summit amid heightened concerns that Russia is trying to meddle in the November elections.

McConnell added on Thursday that he requested the hearings and recommendations on potential legislative steps as part of Congress's effort "to form part of any national response" to Russian interference in the United States or other countries.

GOP senators have been locked in a days-long debate over what they should do to try to crack down on Russia. One bill, which is gathering momentum among senators on both sides of the aisle, would slap new sanctions on Russia if the director of national intelligence finds that they interfere in future U.S. elections.

Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioOn The Money: Trump declares emergency at border | Braces for legal fight | Move divides GOP | Trump signs border deal to avoid shutdown | Winners, losers from spending fight | US, China trade talks to resume next week Trump declares national emergency at border Democrats veer left as Trump cements hold on Republicans MORE (R-Fla.) told reporters on Wednesday that lawmakers were discussing whether to send his legislation directly to the Senate floor since going through the committee process could slow down any legislative response.

Another bill, from Sen. Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerBipartisan Senators reintroduce legislation to slap new sanctions on Russia Dems seeking path to Senate majority zero-in on Sun Belt Lawmakers eager for 5G breakthrough MORE (R-Colo.), would ask the State Department to determine if Russia is a state sponsor of terrorism, a designation that triggers U.S. sanctions.

The effort to move forward on Russia legislation comes as congressional Republicans have been reluctant to confront Trump on a range of issues, including immigration and trade. A showdown could spark backlash from the party's fervent base, where the president remains popular, just months before the midterms.

Republicans on Capitol Hill have released a flurry of statements in recent days saying that they disagreed with Trump's hesitancy to say Russia meddled in the 2016 election.

“The Intelligence Community Assessment of Russian Activities in the 2016 elections makes clear that President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign aimed at undermining public faith in our democratic process," McConnell said on Thursday.