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McConnell suggests Russian sanctions action unlikely in September

McConnell suggests Russian sanctions action unlikely in September
© Greg Nash

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump looms over Senate's anti-Asian hate crimes battle Appointing a credible, non-partisan Jan. 6 commission should not be difficult Why President Biden is all-in in infrastructure MORE (R-Ky.) on Tuesday said he favors placing additional sanctions on Russia amid evidence that Russian agents are trying to influence the 2018 midterm elections and hack conservative think tanks, but warned that there are other items on the agenda before a vote on Russia sanctions could occur. 

McConnell suggested Congress could take action in October, weeks before Election Day, saying the September schedule is filling up with plans to vote on spending bills, opioid legislation and a final version of the farm bill.

“September is pretty crowded already. I'm personally very interested in a Russia sanctions bill. I hope there can be a bipartisan coming together with something we can pass,” McConnell told reporters.

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McConnell warned that, given the packed schedule, the vote would likely be pushed to October or even after the election.

“The chances of sandwiching that in, honestly, in the month of September with all the other items that we have squirreling around is probably pretty slim but we’ll be here longer this year,” he said. “It would be high on the list for consideration for floor time.”

Two leading contenders for floor action are a bill sponsored by Sens. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioHillicon Valley: Biden administration sanctions Russia for SolarWinds hack, election interference Senators reintroduce bill to block NATO withdrawal New US sanctions further chill Biden-Putin relations MORE (R-Fla.) and Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenDemocratic senators call on Biden to support waiving vaccine patents Lawmakers struggle with Capitol security after latest attack Democrats torn on Biden's bipartisan pledge MORE (D-Md.) in the Senate Banking Committee and a measure backed by Sens. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGraham: 'I could not disagree more' with Trump support of Afghanistan troop withdrawal Wall Street spent .9B on campaigns, lobbying in 2020 election: study Biden aide: Ability to collect daily intel in Afghanistan 'will diminish' MORE (R-S.C.) and Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezBiden rebuffs Democrats, keeps refugee admissions at 15,000 Bottom line The Memo: Biden's five biggest foreign policy challenges MORE (D-N.J.) in the Foreign Relations Committee.

The Rubio-Van Hollen bill, known as the DETER Act, would place sanctions on any foreign government that attempts to interfere in a U.S. election.

If the director of national intelligence finds that the Kremlin has meddled in a federal election, the DETER Act would impose sanctions on Russian finance, energy, defense and mining interests.

Menendez, however, argues that Russia has already interfered in the 2018 election and should face sanctions regardless of additional findings.

The Graham-Menendez bill would increase sanctions on Russian energy and financial sectors, on Russian oligarchs and on Russian sovereign debt.

Van Hollen argued during an appearance on C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers” Friday that further sanctions should be contingent on future violations to be most effective.  

“All the evidence I’ve heard and testimony I’ve heard from experts on sanctions is if you want to deter behavior, what you do is set up a punishment that will happen if someone engages in that behavior,” he said. “Punishing somebody after the fact is like putting toothpaste back into the tube.”