US senators trying to gain veto power that could block Trump from lifting sanctions on Russia
A group of prominent US senators is leading a bipartisan effort to push through the so-called Russia Review Act, which would allow the Senate to veto any attempt of newcomer President Donald Trump to loosen sanctions on Moscow.
The group, which currently consists of six senators, is growing, according to a report by CNN, which sees the initiative as Congress’ latest warning to Trump signifying that it will not tolerate unilateral moves by the executive branch to reconcile with Moscow, especially the lifting of sanctions.
The group led by Senators Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and Ben Cardin (D-Maryland) also includes Marco Rubio (R-Florida), John McCain (R-Arizona), Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri), and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).
On Wednesday, they are planning to introduce legislation that would subject any decision the president takes concerning Russia to a 120 day-review, during which Congress could put any move to lift sanctions to a vote, according to a copy of the draft shown to CNN.
If Trump was to order the lifting of sanctions without Russia pulling out of Crimea, the Florida senator believes there’s strong enough opposition among legislators to veto the move. The US still considers Crimea to be part of Ukraine.
“I think if there was a real threat of lifting sanctions minus the respect for Ukrainian sovereignty and meeting those conditions, my sense is that we would have the votes to pass that in the Senate and we would be able to pass it with a veto-proof majority,” Rubio told the news network.
Meanwhile, another bill is being formulated by another group of a dozen senators who wish to impose an additional set of comprehensive sanctions on Moscow, on top of those already in place. They justify the move citing Crimea’s decision to reunite with Russia in a referendum following an armed coup in Kiev (referred to as “annexation” by Washington), as well as unproven allegations that Russia carried out cyber-attacks to influence the US election.
No date has been set for a vote on that bill.
Both acts would require a supermajority of 67 Senate votes, which sponsor Ben Cardin of Maryland believes is achievable.
The news comes before the dust has even settled on Trump’s interview with Bill O’Reilly on Fox, during which the host tried to coax the president into making a harsh comments about Vladimir Putin, even going so far as to call the Russian president a “killer.” Trump refused to take the bait, however, causing quite a stir in anti-Russian circles on Capitol Hill.
Reports about the new bill come as tensions between Moscow and Kiev have increased over the issue of holding elections in the Donbass region. Moscow believes elections should go ahead, provided that free and fair electoral procedures are observed and the safety of all candidates is ensured, while Kiev insists that no elections can be held until it has establishing full control over the rebel regions and their borders with Russia. Moreover, ultranationalist and neo-Nazi elements in Ukraine have been putting pressure on the Kiev government, threatening to oust Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko if elections in the breakaway regions take place.