In a vote that was as close to unanimous as the current Congress is likely to produce on anything more substantial than naming a post office, the Senate passed sanctions designed to punish Russia for interference in the 2016 election.
This bill would put the force of legislation behind the sanctions that President Barack Obama already imposed following the election, making it more difficult for Donald Trump to remove those sactions—which is something Trump planned from his first days in the White House.
Unknown to the public at the time, top Trump administration officials, almost as soon as they took office, tasked State Department staffers with developing proposals for the lifting of economic sanctions, the return of diplomatic compounds and other steps to relieve tensions with Moscow.
The legislation puts in place a process that has to be followed in relaxing any sanction, making it not just harder for Trump to eliminate them on a whim, but more difficult for Trump or Tillerson to turn the sanctions into bargaining chips.
Additional sanctions in the bill target specific areas of the Russian economy, including mining and shipping.
Voting against the bill were Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, who continues to advocate for Putin and Russia on every occasion, and Rand Paul of Kentucky because … Aqua Buddha? In any case, the question is whether 97 yes votes is enough to keep Donald Trump from saying no.