- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 15, 2017

Moving to reassert congressional power over U.S.-Iran relations, the Senate voted Thursday to impose new sanctions on the Tehran regime, expanding penalties for terrorism and piling on more punishment for the government’s apparent ongoing push for ballistic missiles.

The sanctions do not interfere with the nuclear deal President Barack Obama struck with Iran, but do try to fill in the holes elsewhere in the U.S. net of sanctions on the Islamic republic.

The bill also includes a new round of sanctions laws aimed at Russia, which the Senate attached to the Iran bill on Wednesday, moving to punish Moscow for transgressions against Ukraine and for meddling in the U.S. election last year.

Senators voted 98-2 to pass the whole package Thursday, shipping it over to the House.

The legislation is the first big test of congressional Republicans’ willingness to stake out a foreign policy that didn’t emanate from the Trump administration, and could presage bigger battles ahead, with Democrats cheering on the GOP.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, said the bill’s easy passage should be a caution to reporters who obsess over areas of disagreement on Capitol Hill — particularly in the wake of this week’s attack on Republican congressmen at a baseball practice.

“If those agreements were given a little more recognition by the media, the fact that we can at times at least work in a bipartisan way, that would help,” Mr. Schumer said. “To too many of us on both sides of the aisle, it seems when there’s divisiveness, it gets far greater attention in the media than when there’s comity between the parties.”

The Iran bill requires the administration to freeze assets and refuse entry to anyone deemed to be helping Iran’s missile program. Iran’s Revolutionary Guard is also hit with sanctions for supporting terrorists.

New Russian sanctions, meanwhile, are aimed at that country’s mining and shipping sectors.

The Trump administration said it’s reviewing the Russian sanctions.

“The process is still ongoing. It needs to go through the House, and we don’t have a final product yet to weigh in” on, said deputy press secretary Sarah Sanders.

Republicans and Democrats alike urged both the House and the president to take speedy action.

Sen. Bob Corker, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said the bill was an effort for Congress to regain some control of U.S. foreign policy.

“With passage of this legislation, the Senate reasserts congressional authority — while providing the Trump administration appropriate national security flexibility — and sends a clear signal to both Iran and Russia that our country will stand firm in the face of destabilizing behavior and that Congress will play a leading role in protecting our national interests,” the Tennessee Republican said.

Voting against the bill were Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican, and Sen. Bernard Sanders, Vermont independent.

Mr. Sanders said he supported the anti-Russia provisions but balked at the Iran sanctions.

“I believe that these new sanctions could endanger the very important nuclear agreement that was signed between the United States, its partners and Iran in 2015. That is not a risk worth taking,” he said.

“I think the United States must play a more even-handed role in the Middle East and find ways to address not only Iran’s activities, but also Saudi Arabia’s decadeslong support for radical extremism,” Mr. Sanders said.

 

 

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