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 PutinHillicon Valley: House panel says Intelligence Community not equipped to address Chinese threats | House approves bill to send cyber resources to state, local governments Celebs share deepfake video of Kim Jong Un warning democracy is at risk Comey defends FBI Russia probe from GOP criticism 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 RischWhy the US should rely more on strategy, not sanctions Davis: The Hall of Shame for GOP senators who remain silent on Donald Trump Senators blast Turkey's move to convert Hagia Sophia back into a mosque 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 GrahamComey defends FBI Russia probe from GOP criticism The Hill's Campaign Report: Debate fallout l Trump clarifies remarks on Proud Boys l Down to the wire in South Carolina Poll finds Trump, Biden in statistical dead heat in South Carolina MORE (R-S.C.), Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinPelosi hopeful COVID-19 relief talks resume 'soon' Congress must finish work on popular conservation bill before time runs out PPP application window closes after coronavirus talks deadlock  MORE (D-Md.), Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerSenate Democrats want to avoid Kavanaugh 2.0 Breaking the Chinese space addiction Trump dumbfounds GOP with latest unforced error MORE (R-Colo.), Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenNew Hampshire poll finds Biden up 8 points over Trump Senate Democrats introduce bill to sanction Russians over Taliban bounties Trump-backed candidate wins NH GOP Senate primary to take on Shaheen MORE (D-N.H.) and Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezWatchdog confirms State Dept. canceled award for journalist who criticized Trump Kasie Hunt to host lead-in show for MSNBC's 'Morning Joe' Senators ask for removal of tariffs on EU food, wine, spirits: report 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 McConnellGOP senators pan debate: 'S---show,' 'awful,' 'embarrassment' 'One more serious try' on COVID-19 relief yields progress but no deal The Hill's Campaign Report: Debate fallout l Trump clarifies remarks on Proud Boys l Down to the wire in South Carolina MORE (R-Ky.).