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U.S. Senate vote on Russia sanctions unlikely in September - McConnell

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaks after the Republican policy lunch on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., July 10, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Legislation warning Russia it would face heavy U.S. sanctions if it were found interfering in November’s congressional elections will not be voted on anytime soon, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Tuesday, although he cited his strong interest in such a bill.

Noting an already heavy September Senate floor schedule, McConnell told reporters the chances were “probably pretty slim” that a new Russia sanctions measure would be wedged in.

Without promising a vote by the Nov. 6 congressional elections, the Republican lawmaker added: “We’ll be here longer this year and it would be high on the list for consideration for floor time.”

Bipartisan bills would mandate steep U.S. sanctions against Russian or other countries’ energy, finance, defence, metals and mining sectors if they were found to have interfered in American elections.

Legislative efforts accelerated in Congress in July after President Donald Trump’s meeting in Helsinki with Russian President Vladimir Putin, but have since slowed.

A Trump-Putin news conference, which followed an unusually secretive meeting between the two leaders, created an international stir when the American president failed to confront Putin over U.S. intelligence agencies’ determination that Moscow meddled in the 2016 presidential election.

A special prosecutor has been investigating Russian meddling and possible coordination with the Trump campaign.

Moscow has denied interfering in the election and Trump has repeatedly said there was no collusion and has called for an end to Robert Mueller’s investigation.

“I’m personally very interested in a Russia sanctions bill,” McConnell said on Tuesday. He controls which bills come to the Senate floor for consideration but has not rushed any sanctions legislation since Helsinki.

Reporting by Richard Cowan and Susan Cornwell; Editing by James Dalgleish and Peter Cooney