United States top diplomat asks for "flexibility" as Congress passes new Russian Federation sanctions

The bipartisan amendment expands existing sanctions on Russia. The Senate will consider it as part of an Iran sanctions bill that already has wide support

"By codifying existing sanctions and requiring congressional review of any decision to weaken or lift them, we are ensuring that the United States continues to punish" Russian President Vladimir Putin "for his reckless and destabilizing actions", Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from NY, said in a statement.

The Senate passed by a vote of 97-2 a measure to toughen sanctions on Russian Federation, a rare bipartisan move meant to respond to various aggressions by Russian Federation against the U.S.

The new Senate sanctions on Russian Federation and Iran came one day after U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called on lawmakers to grant "flexibility" to the White House in dealing with Russian Federation.

The Republican-led Senate voted decisively to punish Moscow for interfering in the 2016 election by approving a wide-ranging sanctions package that targets key sectors of Russia's economy and individuals who carried out cyber attacks.

The measures need the approval of the House of Representatives and to be signed into law by President Trump, although they are thought to have enough Congressional support to override any veto. It would require the administration to explain any moves to ease or lift sanctions, and create a new mechanism for Congress to review and block any such effort.

The Iran bill, including the Russian Federation sanctions amendment, was expected to pass the Senate by Thursday (local time). Spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the Trump administration "is committed to existing sanctions against Russia" and will keep them in place "until Moscow fully honors its commitments to resolve the crisis in Ukraine". The only two senators not to vote for the bill were Republicans Rand Paul and Mike Lee.

The bill was now heading toward the House for passage before reaching U.S. President Donald Trump's desk.

While Donald Trump seems determined to make America best friends with Russian Federation - handing over top secret intelligence and trying to lift sanctions against the country - a almost united Senate is standing in his way.

This bill still must go to the House for consideration; it's not clear whether it will be advanced by GOP leaders there, as the Trump Administration is not pleased with some of the details.

"I'm concerned about it, but I don't really have the ability to dictate what the White House says to the House", Virginia Sen. However, the official did want it to be known that the administration "supports sanctions on Russian Federation and that the political ramifications of any veto have not been discussed yet".

But the vote on Russian Federation sanctions was overshadowed by the shooting of GOP House Whip Steve Scalise, a GOP staff member, a former GOP staffer and two members of the U.S. Capitol Police force, while they practiced for a congressional baseball game in Alexandria, Virginia, early Wednesday morning.

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