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 allies throw jabs at Bolton over book's claims GOP confident of win on witnesses Collins Senate bid threatens to spark GOP rift in Georgia 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.

ADVERTISEMENT

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: UK allows Huawei to build 5G in blow to Trump | Lawmakers warn decision threatens intel sharing | Work on privacy bill inches forward | Facebook restricts travel to China amid virus Lawmakers warn US, UK intel sharing at risk after Huawei decision GOP lawmaker: UK-Huawei deal could force US to 'reexamine' intelligence-sharing partnership MORE (R-Fla.) and Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenDemocrats offer mixed reactions to Trump's Mideast peace plan Trump offers two-state peace plan for Israeli-Palestinian conflict amid skepticism The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump lawyers to offer closing arguments on day 7 MORE (D-Md.) in the Senate Banking Committee and a measure backed by Sens. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGOP confident of win on witnesses GOP Foreign Affairs leaders join pushback against potential troop drawdown in Africa Republicans signal renewed confidence they'll avoid witness fight MORE (R-S.C.) and Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezMedia's selective outrage exposed in McSally-Raju kerfuffle Dem senators say Iran threat to embassies not mentioned in intelligence briefing Overnight Defense: Iran crisis eases as Trump says Tehran 'standing down' | Dems unconvinced on evidence behind Soleimani strike | House sets Thursday vote on Iran war powers 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.”