Senators are vetting the language of a bipartisan deal to punish Russia that would allow Congress to disapprove of any attempt by President Donald Trump to ease sanctions on Moscow, Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker said late Monday.
Whether the Tennessee Republican’s optimism translates into a vote this week remains to be seen, however, with Democrats declining to confirm that a deal is done. If the Senate can pass a strong Russia sanctions package, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) could both claim a measure of victory — while also dealing a blow to the White House, which has floated a possible deal to roll back penalties on Vladimir Putin’s government in exchange for further cooperation on anti-terrorism efforts.
“Throughout these negotiations, Democrats have insisted that a Russia sanctions amendment accomplishes three things: codify the existing sanctions in law, impose tough new sanctions in response to Russian meddling in our elections, and give Congress a process to review whether they should be lifted,” Schumer said in a statement Monday night. “While we have not yet reached a final agreement, I’m hopeful we’ll be able to do so.”
One Senate Democratic aide said negotiators are still reviewing details. The Senate late Monday formally took up an Iran sanctions bill that the Russia proposal would ultimately be attached to, setting the stage for the text of an agreement to emerge as soon as Monday night.
“After more than a week of discussions, we’re close to a deal,” Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), another senator involved in the Russia talks, said in a statement. “But it’s important to emphasize that the details of this amendment matter immensely and that’s what we’re reviewing at this time.”
Corker told reporters the Russia deal would provide for congressional review of any future rollbacks of Russia sanctions, a plan pushed by Schumer as well as Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). The review language would be structured “much like we did in other places,” such as the 2015 legislation that required former President Barack Obama to submit his administration’s nuclear pact with Iran to Congress, Corker said.
Banking Chairman Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), a key player in the Russia sanctions talks, acknowledged that “I have had concerns with” the congressional review provisions but added that “if we can set it up adequately, then I’m open.”
A White House spokesman did not immediately return a request for comment Monday night on the prospect of a Russia sanctions deal, which would face an uncertain future in the House.
Asked about the prospects of a veto threat, the Foreign Relations panel’s top Democrat, Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin, told reporters Monday that while “there’s no administration that wants Congress interfering” with its sanctions policy, “I think we’ll have the support of the administration” for any bipartisan Russia deal that might pass this week.
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