Senate

Senate rejects effort to block Trump on Russia sanctions

The Senate on Wednesday narrowly rejected a Democratic-led effort to block President Trump from lifting sanctions against three Russian businesses.
 
Senators voted 57-42 to end debate on the resolution, falling short of the 60 votes needed. If all Democrats supported the measure, they needed to win over 13 GOP senators. 
 
{mosads}GOP Sens. John Boozman (Ark.), Susan Collins (Maine), Tom Cotton (Ark.), Steve Daines (Mont.), Cory Gardner (Colo.), Josh Hawley (Mo.), John Kennedy (La.), Martha McSally (Ariz.), Jerry Moran (Kan.), Marco Rubio (Fla.) and Ben Sasse (Neb.) voted to end debate on the resolution and advance it to a final vote.
 
The Trump administration announced plans late last month to relax sanctions on the three businesses — Rusal, EN+ and EuroSibEnergo — connected to Oleg Deripaska, an oligarch with ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
 
Under the 2017 sanctions bill, Democrats are able to force a vote on a resolution to block the administration from lifting the financial penalties.
 
Wednesday’s vote hands the Trump administration a win after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was dispatched to Capitol Hill to lobby Congress to squash the resolution.
 
He met with House Democrats last week and Senate Republicans on Tuesday to make the case that the sanctions against the three companies should be lifted because Deripaska’s ownership in the entities has fallen below 50 percent.
 
Mnuchin failed to sway enough senators to stop the resolution during an initial vote on Tuesday, where only a simple majority was needed. With Democrats holding 47 seats they had to win over at least four GOP senators on the first vote.
 
GOP senators who backed the resolution say they were unconvinced that Deripaska wouldn’t maintain considerable sway over the companies under the Treasury Department’s plan. 
 
“For all intents and purposes between his shares, the independent shares that the Russian state-owned bank control and various other individual shareholders, I still think he retains operational control,” Rubio told reporters ahead of the initial vote. “So they’re going to have to do better.”
 

Kennedy added afterward that he voted to advance the resolution “because the principal involved is a gangster.”

 
But Tuesday’s 57-42 vote still left Democrats a few votes shy of being able to defeat the expected filibuster. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) urged Republicans to support the resolution to block the sanctions from being lifted if they believe that Putin is a “thug.” 
 
“I’d like to make a direct appeal to my Republican friends who are wondering about this. … Do you believe America should take a tough line on Putin or do you think we should go easy on Putin and his cronies? From where I’m standing that’s an easy choice,” Schumer said. 
 
The vote in the Senate means that the Trump administration will be able to lift the Russia sanctions.
 
Though House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said this week that he would introduce a resolution in that chamber to block the financial penalties from being nixed, both chambers would need to pass a resolution of disapproval by Thursday in order to block the administration from lifting sanctions.

House Democrats have asked for an extension from the Treasury Department, but Mnuchin declined to discuss the issue with reporters.

 
The Russia sanctions resolution is the first piece of legislation the Senate has debated since the start of the 116th Congress. Democrats have blocked a separate GOP foreign policy bill three times, arguing lawmakers should be focused on ending the partial government shutdown. 
 

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) knocked Democrats on Wednesday accusing them of trying to blow up an agreement negotiated by the Trump administration in order to “make a political splash.” 
 
“Political obstruction is their top priority. Everything else follows from that,” McConnell said. 
Tags Ben Sasse Charles Schumer Cory Gardner Donald Trump Jerry Moran John Boozman John Kennedy Josh Hawley Marco Rubio Martha McSally Mitch McConnell Steny Hoyer Steve Daines Steven Mnuchin Susan Collins Tom Cotton

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