A frequently polarized Senate found common ground Thursday as Republicans and Democrats joined forces to approve a sweeping sanctions bill that punishes longtime adversaries Iran and Russia with an array of financial penalties.
The bipartisan legislation passed overwhelmingly Thursday, 98-2, more than five months after U.S. intelligence agencies determined Moscow had deliberately interfered in the 2016 presidential campaign. Lawmakers have long sought to hit Iran with more sanctions in order to check its ballistic missile program and rebuke Tehran's continued support for terrorist groups.
The decisive bipartisan vote could put the Trump administration in a bind. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has offered only tepid support for the Russia sanctions package. Yet those penalties are melded with the Iran punishments. So the White House would have to reject stricter punishments against Iran, which it favors, in order to derail the Russia penalties.
The legislation, which now moves to the House, also gives Capitol Hill a much stronger hand in determining Russia sanctions policy. The bill would require a congressional review if President Donald Trump attempts to ease or end penalties against Moscow.
The review mechanism was styled after 2015 legislation pushed by Republicans and approved overwhelmingly in the Senate that gave Congress a vote on whether President Barack Obama could lift sanctions against Iran. That measure reflected Republican complaints that Obama had overstepped the power of the presidency and needed to be checked by Congress.