In a polarized political environment, the Senate yesterday passed a bill that imposes sanctions on Iran and Russia with overwhelming bipartisan support. The legislation passed 98-2, coming months after intelligence agencies said Russia interfered in US elections. It also strikes at Iran, who continues to expand its ballistic missile program and also continues to support terrorism.
Sens. Bernie Sanders and Rand Paul were the only senators to vote against the measure.
The bill is aimed primarily at financial resources for both countries, attempting to limit access to capital resources for both countries, and also for specific groups and individuals in those countries.
However, the bill’s real effect could be somewhat different in two ways. First, current sanctions on both Russia and Iran were done by Executive Order, meaning that the President imposed them through and, by extension, a President could remove them. By passing this bill, the Senate hopes to make the sanctions law, and so could not be changed by a President without changing the law. Secondly, by tying the sanctions of Iran and Russia together in one bill, the Senate’s Republican leadership likely is attempting to tie President Trump’s hands on this point. The President and Secretary of State Tillerson have only given luke-warm support on increasing sanctions against Russia. But they have strongly supported sanctions against Iran. With passage of this bill, the Senate is saying that you can’t get increased sanctions on Iran without increased sanctions on Russia.
The bill now goes to the House, where it appears to have strong bipartisan support, as well.