Senate committee approves legislation to sanction Russia

Senate committee approves legislation to sanction Russia
© Alexey Nikolsky/AFP/Getty Images

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday voted to approve and send to the full Senate a bill that would impose sanctions on Russia for interference efforts in democratic institutions and push forward international cybersecurity efforts. 

The committee approved the Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression Act (DASKA) by a vote of 17-5 during a markup on Wednesday. 

The bill would impose wide-ranging sanctions on Russia for interference efforts, including sanctioning Russian banks that support Russian efforts to undermine foreign democratic institutions, and sanctioning relatives and associates of Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinIn a new cold war with China, America may need to befriend Russia Here's why reporters are not asking the White House about 'Obamagate' Postponed Russian World War II victory parade now set for June MORE who solicit “illicit and corrupt activities” on behalf of Putin.

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In addition, the bill would sanction both Russia’s cyber industry and target its sovereign debt. 

Despite the committee vote in support, Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jim RischJames (Jim) Elroy RischHillicon Valley: Lawmakers demand answers on Chinese COVID hacks | Biden re-ups criticism of Amazon | House Dem bill seeks to limit microtargeting Senate panel approves Trump nominee under investigation Hillicon Valley: Trump threatens Michigan, Nevada over mail-in voting | Officials call for broadband expansion during pandemic | Democrats call for investigation into Uber-Grubhub deal MORE (R-Idaho) voted against it, saying he was skeptical about the bill’s future, while telling The Hill that “I do not think this is going to be heard” in the full Senate. 

Risch pointed to “fatal flaws” involving sanctions in the legislation, saying that sanctions have the potential to “hurt American enterprise and the American people.”

“In order to see that that doesn’t happen, you have to have flexible waivers in there, and this bill doesn’t,” Risch said. “I don’t think any president, Republican or Democrat, is going to sign a sanctions bill that doesn’t give the administration the flexibility that they need to administer the law.”

The bill has bipartisan support, however, and is sponsored by Sens. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump tweets as tensions escalate across US This week: Senate reconvenes as protests roil nation amid pandemic Trump asserts his power over Republicans MORE (R-S.C.), Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinThis week: Senate reconvenes as protests roil nation amid pandemic Schumer to GOP: Cancel 'conspiracy hearings' on origins of Russia probe On The Money: Senate Dems pump brakes on new stimulus checks | Trump officials sued over tax refunds | Fed to soon open small-business lending program MORE (D-Md.), Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerThe Hill's Campaign Report: Minneapolis protests rock the nation McConnell: Next coronavirus bill will be final COVID-19 package Democrats gear up to hit GOP senators on DACA MORE (R-Colo.), Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenThis week: Surveillance fight sets early test for House's proxy voting Open Skies withdrawal throws nuclear treaty into question GOP faces internal conflicts on fifth coronavirus bill MORE (D-N.H.) and Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezGovernment watchdog: 'No evidence' Pompeo violated Hatch Act with Kansas trips No time to be selling arms to the Philippines Senate panel approves Trump nominee under investigation MORE (N.J.), the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. 

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Menendez said in a statement Wednesday that the legislation “is the expression of the Senate’s views on how to protect U.S. national security against Russia.”

Menendez added that “by passing DASKA, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is saying we intend to hold Vladimir Putin accountable, and that we will be proactive in standing up for U.S. national security.”

Graham praised the committee for voting to approve the bill, saying in a statement that “this strong vote indicates an overwhelming desire by the Senate as a whole to push back against Russian interference in our election and Putin’s misadventures throughout the world.”

Beyond Russian sanctions, the bill also expresses strong support for NATO, and would require two-thirds of the Senate to vote to leave NATO for the U.S. to exit the organization. 

It also includes a raft of cybersecurity provisions, including the establishment of an Office of Cyberspace and Digital Economy at the State Department that would be charged with leading diplomatic efforts on international cybersecurity, cyber crime, internet access and other matters. 

The inclusion of the provision to create the new cyber office of the State Department comes two years after the agency decided to shut down its Office of the Coordinator for Cyber Issues, a move that drew criticism from cyber experts. 

Alongside this, the bill would create a National Fusion Center to Respond to Hybrid Threats,” which would work to counter Russian disinformation efforts and other emerging threats from Russia. Further, the bill would empower the Department of Justice to bring federal charges against anyone who attempted to hack into voting systems used in federal elections.

Other sponsors of the bill vowed on Wednesday to continue to push for its passage, citing continued Russian threats against the U.S. and other countries. 

“I hope the full Senate will take it up quickly,” Cardin said in a statement. “We must be united in our effort to fully protect our country and our allies from a Kremlin that shows no sign of abiding by or respecting international norms.”

Gardner emphasized that “Putin’s Russia is an outlaw regime that is hell-bent on undermining international law and destroying the U.S.-led liberal global order,” and noted that he hoped Congress would “move quickly” to sign the bill into law.

“This bipartisan legislation sends a clear message that Congress will not stay on the sidelines while Russia continues to interfere in our elections, threatens Ukraine’s sovereignty and sows discord in the transatlantic community,” Shaheen said in a separate statement.

“I urge Leader McConnell to bring this bill to the floor immediately,” she said of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump tweets as tensions escalate across US This week: Senate reconvenes as protests roil nation amid pandemic For city parks: Pass the Great American Outdoors Act now MORE (R-Ky.).