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 McConnellAre Democrats turning Trump-like? House Democrat calls for gun control: Cities can ban plastic straws but 'we can't ban assault weapons?' Churches are arming and training congregants in response to mass shootings: report 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 RubioTrump moves forward with F-16 sale to Taiwan opposed by China The Hill's Morning Report — Trump and the new Israel-'squad' controversy Trump crosses new line with Omar, Tlaib, Israel move MORE (R-Fla.) and Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenSenate Democrats push Trump to permanently shutter migrant detention facility USDA eases relocation timeline as researchers flee agency Fed to launch real-time payments system in 2023 MORE (D-Md.) in the Senate Banking Committee and a measure backed by Sens. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGraham warns Trump on Taliban deal in Afghanistan: Learn from 'Obama's mistakes' Appropriators warn White House against clawing back foreign aid Trump meets with national security team on Afghanistan peace plan MORE (R-S.C.) and Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezHouse passes temporary immigration protections for Venezuelans Senate panel advances bipartisan bill to lower drug prices amid GOP blowback Democrats pledge to fight Trump detention policy during trip to border 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.”