- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 18, 2019

A key Senate panel advanced legislation on Thursday that would impose harsh restrictions on Russia stemming from its alleged meddling in foreign elections, aggression towards Ukraine and involvement in Syrian civil war.

The resolution targets Russian banks linked to efforts to meddle in the U.S. and other elections and places new restrictions on the country’s oil and gas industry.

Earlier this year, Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican and sponsor of the resolution, labeled the legislation the “sanctions bill from Hell” as it slaps sweeping penalties that could squeeze Moscow’s economy.

Five Republican members of the committee opposed the bill Wednesday, including Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman James Risch, who voiced concerns about unintended consequences of the sanctions at a time of tense U.S.-Russian bilateral relations. It passed on a 17-5 vote.

Just one day earlier, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Petroleum Institute had both warned of the dangers of the proposed new sanctions on Russia.

“Too often…sanctions are used as a blunt instrument when circumstances call for a scalpel,” the U.S. Chamber argued in a white paper letter sent to the committee.

“At times, the United States has applied sanctions in a sweeping manner without sufficient regard for their effectiveness or possible collateral harm to other U.S. interests,” the chamber continued.

Sponsors of the measure say it was structured to confront Russian aggression “by strengthening our commitment to NATO, establishing an elite State Department cyber unit, and levying wide-ranging sanctions on Russian entities and individuals.”

Mr. Graham, a noted ally of President Trump on Capitol Hill, said he is “incredibly pleased” with the committee vote, calling it “the strongest statement yet by Congress that we are tired of the discord that [Russian President Vladimir] Putin is sowing throughout the world and the threat that he poses to the neighborhood in which he resides.”

• Lauren Toms can be reached at lmeier@washingtontimes.com.

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