Senators close in on Russia sanctions deal
A pair of top senators said on Sunday that they are closing in on a deal on Russia sanctions amid ramped-up tensions over Ukraine.
Sens. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and James Risch (R-Idaho) — the chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — said during a joint interview with CNN’s “State of the Union” that they were on the cusp of an agreement, with the goal of finalizing the legislation early this week.
“I would describe it as we are on the 1-yard line, and hopefully we will be able to conclude successfully,” Menendez told host Dana Bash, describing the negotiations as an “intensive effort.”
“There is an incredible bipartisan resolve for support of Ukraine and an incredibly strong bipartisan resolve to have severe consequences for Russia if it invades Ukraine and in some cases for what it has already done,” Menendez added.
Risch added that he was “cautiously optimistic at this point that when we get back to D.C. tomorrow that we’re going to be moving forward.”
Menendez previously introduced legislation to impose sanctions on Russia if it invades Ukraine.
Menendez’s bill would target Russian officials and financial institutions if President Biden determines Russia has invaded or engaged in a significant “escalation of hostilities” against Ukraine. The bill also authorizes sanctions on companies in Russia that offer secure messaging systems such as SWIFT, the international system by which banks communicate, and includes additional security assistance and provisions to help Ukraine push back against Russian disinformation.
But Menendez and Risch have been leading a bipartisan group of senators to negotiate changes to the bill to come up with a bipartisan compromise that gets the 10 GOP votes needed to break a filibuster.
In addition to Menendez and Risch, GOP Sens. Rob Portman (Ohio), John Cornyn (Texas) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.) and Democratic Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.), Chris Murphy (Conn.) and Ben Cardin (Md.) are involved in the talks.
As part of the negotiations, the deal would include some sanctions that could be slapped on Russia now, instead of tying them to an invasion. Menendez pointed to sanctions related to cyberattacks by Russia, false flag operations and attempts to undermine the Ukrainian government as areas that could Moscow could be penalized for before a potential invasion of Ukraine.
Other sanctions would still be tied to an invasion of Russia in an effort to send a warning to Russian President Vladimir Putin about the consequences of invading Ukraine.
In addition to sanctions, the Senate deal is expected to bolster lethal aid to Ukraine as well as efforts to counter Russian misinformation.
One sticking point for the group remains what to do about the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which will deliver gas from Russia to Germany.
Senate Democrats recently blocked legislation from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) that would have slapped sanctions on businesses related to the pipeline and let Congress force a vote on reinstating the penalties if Biden waived them.
Risch, on Sunday, indicated that senators hadn’t yet locked down what to do on the pipeline.
“We’re working on that,” he said. “That’s going to be the last T crossed, I dotted before we put the ball across the finish line.”
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