Senate

McConnell suggests Russian sanctions action unlikely in September

Greg Nash

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (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 Rubio (R-Fla.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) in the Senate Banking Committee and a measure backed by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bob Menendez (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.”

Tags Bob Menendez Chris Van Hollen Lindsey Graham Majority leader Marco Rubio Mitch McConnell Russia sanctions Senate vote
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