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Senate votes to start debating Russia sanctions measure, but may lack votes to finish it

Joint resolution seeks to block sanctions relief for three Russian companies

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer has led the joint resolution. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer has led the joint resolution. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Eleven Senate Republicans split from the Trump administration Tuesday afternoon, backing an effort by Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer to force a floor debate on sanctions on Russian firms.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had appeared at Tuesday’s Senate GOP lunch to make the case for letting sanctions relief for three sanctioned Russian companies to go forward.

The resolution seeks to maintain Treasury’s sanctions for En+ Group plc, UC Rusal plc and JSC EuroSibEnergo.  The three companies had been sanctioned because they were under the control of Oleg Deripaska, a sanctioned Russian oligarch.

But a little while later, the Senate voted 57-42 to consider the joint resolution led by Schumer, a New York Democrat, that would block the Trump administration from lifting sanctions against the firms. 

Before the vote to proceed to the measure, senators rejected , 42-57, a motion to table the resolution at the behest of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

“In this narrow case, career civil servants at the Treasury Department simply applied and implemented the law Congress itself wrote — and which the Democratic Leader supported. Treasury’s agreement maintains sanctions on corrupt Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska. It would continue limiting his influence over companies subject to the agreement,” McConnell said before the votes “In addition to subjecting the companies and their officers to unprecedented transparency and monitoring requirements, the agreement preserves Treasury’s ability to snap-back sanctions on the companies and their officers. If there is any evidence of further malfeasance, I expect Treasury to use that authority to the fullest.”

Under The 2017 Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), both chambers would need to pass the resolution by Jan. 17, according to Schumer.

While the Senate could proceed to the joint resolution with just a simple majority, there would be 60 votes needed to limit debate on the measure overall.

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