Senate Passes Russia Sanctions Amendment

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei Iran’s supreme leader delivering a speech during a meeting in Tehran Sept. 9 2015

Senate Overwhelmingly Passes Bipartisan Iran Sanctions Bill Targeting Revolutionary Guards

Senators Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) voted against the amendment, while Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland) abstained. "I'm really not in favor of new sanctions against Russian Federation now or new sanctions on Iran", Paul said. The bill would allow the president to impose sanctions on anyone who commits internationally recognized human rights abuses, such as extrajudicial killings or torture, against individuals trying to expose illegal activity by Iran or to promote human rights in the country.

Corker told reporters that "I only have talked a little bit with" Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who testified twice this week that the White House would prefer "flexibility" to adjust Russian Federation sanctions as needed.

"This is a very, very strong piece of legislation", Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Corker said on the Senate floor. The regime in Tehran directly supports the Syrian Assad regime through Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, its proxy in Lebanese Hezbollah, and various Shiite militias.

The bill passed 98-2, with Kentucky senator Rand Paul and Vermont senator Bernie Sanders voting against it. Lawmakers had overwhelmingly agreed on Wednesday to attach a batch of Russian Federation sanctions to the Iran bill, after calls from both sides of the aisle to push Kremlin-related sanctions through. But Corker said his patience ran out after he reviewed classified intelligence that showed "no difference whatsoever" in Russia's behavior, especially in Syria.

Trump has repeatedly and openly doubted the intelligence community's finding that Russian Federation meddled in the presidential election. Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland did not vote. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) voted against the bill. "These additional sanctions will also send a powerful and bipartisan statement to Russian Federation and any other country who might try to interfere in our elections that they will be punished". In a televised addressed, he said that sanctions would violate the Iran deal signed by President Obama.

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The measure will now go to the House of Representatives where the path forward is not clear.

The Senate also passed two amendments before approving the bill. The White House has not yet released a statement on the president's reaction to the sanctions bill.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson declined to support the measure when he appeared before the House Foreign Affairs and Appropriations Committees on Wednesday.

If signed into law, the document would prohibit the U.S. president from being able to lift sanctions without Congressional approval.

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