Europe News

U.S. senators want say on any Trump Russia sanctions action

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - (This February 8 story has been refiled to correct word in name of bill to review from relief in second paragraph.)

Senior U.S. senators called on Wednesday for the right to review any move the White House might make to ease sanctions on Russia, amid mounting concern in Congress - and among U.S. allies - that President Donald Trump will be too conciliatory toward Moscow.

The lawmakers, led by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and Democrat Ben Cardin, introduced “The Russia Sanctions Review Act of 2017,” modeled on a 2015 bill that let Congress review the Iran nuclear agreement signed by then-President Barack Obama.

Trump’s open admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin and promises to rebuild frayed U.S. ties with Moscow have raised questions over his commitment to maintaining sanctions against Russia for its involvement in fighting in Ukraine and annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

The bill announced on Wednesday would require the administration to submit to Congress a description of any proposed sanctions relief, as well as certification that Moscow had stopped supporting actions to undermine the government of Ukraine and ceased cyber attacks against the U.S. government and its people.

The legislation would give the Republican-led Senate and House of Representatives 120 days to act, or decline to act, on any sanctions relief. During that period, Trump would be barred from action to ease sanctions.

After 120 days, sanctions relief would be granted only if the Senate and House had not voted for a Joint Resolution of Disapproval.

The measure is also backed by Republican Senators Marco Rubio and John McCain and Democrats Sherrod Brown and Claire McCaskill.

It was not immediately clear whether Republican congressional leaders would back the measure or how it would fare in the House, but the bill has the support of some of the leading foreign policy voices in the Senate.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters he did not want to specifically address the legislation. He pointed to support within the Trump administration for keeping sanctions in place, noting that U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley had addressed the issue of keeping Russian sanctions related to Crimea “very forcefully.”

A review of the bill by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has not been scheduled, said a spokeswoman for Senator Bob Corker, the committee’s chairman and author of the 2015 Iran review act. Cardin is the panel’s senior Democrat.

The spokeswoman added: “Senator Corker strongly supports keeping sanctions in place against Russia for its continued destabilizing behavior in Ukraine.”

Additinal reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Andrew Hay and Peter Cooney