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Menendez, Rubio lead Senate effort to regulate Venezuelan sanctions

 
A coalition of 15 Republican and Democratic senators introduced legislation on Wednesday to regulate the humanitarian and sanctions responses to the crisis in Venezuela.
 
The bill, known as the Venezuela Emergency Relief, Democracy Assistance and Development (VERDAD) Act, would expand sanctions against members of embattled President Nicolás Maduro's regime and their families, while providing a way out to deserters who side with U.S.-recognized Interim President Juan Guaidó.
 
In a call with reporters, Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezDemocrats urge YouTube to remove election misinformation, step up efforts ahead of Georgia runoff Democratic senators urge Facebook to take action on anti-Muslim bigotry Trump appointee sparks bipartisan furor for politicizing media agency MORE (D-N.J.) said that officials who swear allegiance to Guaidó, provided they have committed no human rights violations and "have no blood on their hands," could get U.S. sanctions against them lifted under the bill.
 
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The Trump administration has imposed a wide set of individual and sectorial sanctions on Venezuela, mostly focused on Maduro's collaborators. 
 
Sanctions have officially stopped short of a full oil embargo, but the United States banned trade with state-owned oil company PdVSA in February, cutting off the Maduro regime's main source of liquidity.
 
The sanctions hav yet to result in regime change, the administration's stated goal.
 
Menendez said part of the reason Maduro has held on is that Latin American allies who recognize Guaidó's claim don't have an advanced sanctions program.
 
The VERDAD Act, said Menendez, would help "galvanize" international support for Guaidó.
 
"The next step, which is equally as important, is to multi-lateralize sanctions," he said.
 
The bipartisan bill is also sponsored by Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioRubio signals opposition to Biden Cabinet picks Democrats brush off calls for Biden to play hardball on Cabinet picks GOP senator congratulates Biden, says Trump should accept results MORE (R-Fla.), Dick DurbinDick DurbinWhitehouse says Democratic caucus will decide future of Judiciary Committee The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Trump OKs transition; Biden taps Treasury, State experience Durbin seeks to become top-ranking Democrat on Judiciary panel MORE (D-Ill.), Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzOcasio-Cortez, Cruz trade jabs over COVID-19 relief: People 'going hungry as you tweet from' vacation McSally, staff asked to break up maskless photo op inside Capitol Capitol's COVID-19 spike could be bad Thanksgiving preview MORE (R-Texas), Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinDemocratic senators urge Facebook to take action on anti-Muslim bigotry On The Money: Biden, Democratic leaders push for lame-duck coronavirus deal | Business groups shudder at Sanders as Labor secretary | Congress could pass retirement bill as soon as this year Top Democrat: Congress could pass retirement bill as soon as this year MORE (D-Md.), John CornynJohn CornynCornyn says election outcome 'becoming increasingly clear': report Top GOP senator: Biden should be getting intel briefings GOP senator congratulates Biden, says Trump should accept results MORE (R-Texas), Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineDemocrats face increasing pressure to back smaller COVID-19 stimulus Rick Scott tests positive for coronavirus Grassley tests positive for coronavirus MORE (D-Va.), Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungShelton's Fed nomination on knife's edge amid coronavirus-fueled absences Grassley quarantining after exposure to coronavirus Rick Scott to quarantine after contact with person who tested positive for COVID-19 MORE (R-Ind.), Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenTop Democrat calls Trump's Afghan drawdown 'the right policy decision' as others warn of 'mistake' Overnight Defense: How members of the Armed Services committees fared in Tuesday's elections | Military ballots among those uncounted in too-close-to-call presidential race | Ninth US service member killed by COVID-19 Biden wins New Hampshire MORE (D-N.H.), Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSpokesperson says Tennessee Democrat made 'poor analogy' in saying South Carolina voters have extra chromosome Former Graham challenger Jaime Harrison launches political action committee The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Trump OKs transition; Biden taps Treasury, State experience MORE (R-S.C.), Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetDemocratic senators urge Facebook to take action on anti-Muslim bigotry Hickenlooper ousts Gardner in Colorado, handing Democrats vital pickup Lobbying world MORE (D-Colo.), John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Barrasso to seek top spot on Energy and Natural Resources Committee | Forest Service finalizes rule weakening environmental review of its projects | Biden to enlist Agriculture, Transportation agencies in climate fight Senate advances energy regulator nominees despite uncertainty of floor vote Barrasso to seek top spot on Energy and Natural Resources Committee MORE (R-Wyo.), Chris CoonsChris Andrew CoonsDemocrats face increasing pressure to back smaller COVID-19 stimulus Biden rolls out national security team Democrats brush off calls for Biden to play hardball on Cabinet picks MORE (D-Del.), Bill CassidyBill CassidyThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Trump OKs transition; Biden taps Treasury, State experience Bottom line Loeffler isolating after possible COVID-19 infection MORE, M.D. (R-La.) and Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyDemocrats brush off calls for Biden to play hardball on Cabinet picks Rush Limbaugh lauds Hawley: 'This guy is the real deal' Trump told advisers he could announce 2024 bid shortly after certification of Biden win: report MORE (R-Mo.).
 
"I cannot imagine that there won't be broad bipartisan support on this," said Menendez.
 
Menendez said Rubio's support proved critical toward crafting the bipartisan legislation, as the senior senator from Florida is in good stead with Republican leadership and the White House.
 
Menendez and Rubio both serve on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as ranking member and Western Hemisphere chairman, respectively, under Chairman Sen. James Risch (R-Idaho).
 
A spokeswoman for Rubio told The Hill "our office will work with Chairman Risch’s office to get the bill on the SFRC agenda as quickly as possible."
 
The bill avoids drawing red lines that would precipitate military action by the United States, a point of contention between Rubio and Menendez — and more generally, between Republicans and Democrats who support the administration's Venezuela policy.
 
 
Menendez didn't say whether a move by Maduro to arrest Guaidó should be met with U.S. military force, instead noting how European Union (EU) and Latin American support could help prevent such a situation.
 
"Sanctioning the Maduro government is critically important and multilateralizing those bilateral efforts is incredibly important," he said.
 
Menendez added that increased European support could help counteract the support Maduro has received from Russia, China and Cuba.
 
"This is why I think it is so important that we quickly seek to internationalize the sanctions regime. It sends Maduro a message, as well as Russia and China, who are helping to prop up Maduro, and Cuba," said Menendez. 
 
"The EU has engagement with all of these countries," he added.
 
The Senate bill would give statutory support to U.S. policy, rather than grant the White House new tools to go after Maduro.
 
"Much of this is actually doable by the executive branch but in the absence of doing this, the Congress … is leading the way, suggesting this is what needs to be done," said Menendez.