Unable to agree on Russia Sanctions Bill, Senate settles for a statement

WASHINGTON — For weeks, as Russian President Putin signaled that he was moving closer to invading Ukraine, members of Congress from both political parties have vowed that the Senate would pass a “mother of all” bill. all sanctions” against Moscow. United States bipartisan determination to stand with Kyiv against Russian aggression.

But on Thursday night, with the threat of invasion deepening, senators could only muster the legislative power equivalent of a strongly worded letter berating Mr. Putin for his military build-up. “provocative and reckless” team on the Ukrainian border, through a non-binding settlement quickly and without argument before leaving Washington for a week-long vacation.

Some senators hailed the symbolic action, carried out by a voice vote, as proof that the Senate can unite to deliver a strong message of support at a time of peril. grant.

But it’s a notable rift, stemming from deep disagreements between the two sides over when and how to impose sanctions on top Russian officials and banks, and the Biden administration’s resistance act before Putin invades. The result is legislative paralysis on a measure that – at least conceptually – appears to have received overwhelming support. Some senators even asked questions whether the passage of additional sanctions against Moscow would act as a deterrent to further Russian incursions into Ukraine.

Sen. Jim Risch of Idaho, the top Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, who negotiated the bill on behalf of his party. “Both sides say the same thing. “It’s just, what action helped us get that result?”

Republicans and Democrats have debated that question for weeks. In January, Democrats assessed an attempt by Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican of Texas, to impose sanctions on Nord Stream 2, the Russian gas pipeline, argued that adopting such measures before an invasion would give up the key leverage U.S. officials needed. diplomatic negotiations with Russia. Pressed on a case brought by the White House, they also said that it would alienate Germany when it was important to show European unity against Moscow’s aggression. They all promised that they would unite around a new sanctions bill.

The measure being discussed in recent weeks by Mr. Risch and Senator Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat who chairs the Committee on Foreign Relations, is said to be what they call the “mother of all things.” sanctions”. It would introduce immediate penalties on Russian officials and entities, and additional penalties if Putin trespasses.

The bill would also allow President Biden to use the Financial Leasing Act of 1941 to lend Ukraine military equipment, in addition to the $2.7 billion in security assistance the United States has pledged to Kyiv since. year 2014.

For weeks, senators have used language like “correction” and “one-meter line” to describe how close an agreement is to being reached. Menendez suggested that senators might even oppose White House objections to imposing sanctions in the face of an invasion, a move Republicans have pushed for but the Biden administration has pushed for. lobbied with little success.

“They’re not passionate about the idea,” Menendez told reporters about the White House. “But I did suggest to them that a strong bipartisan response would strengthen their power.”

But ultimately, according to aides familiar with the negotiations, the difficult disagreements that affect Cruz’s legislation also make bipartisan negotiations difficult. Democrats are reluctant to impose such broad sanctions in the face of an invasion, amid strong objections from the Treasury Department and a insistence on doing so by Republicans.

As negotiations continued without a resolution, prominent backers of the sanctions package – including Senator Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican and minority leader – began to argue that Mr. Biden can unilaterally impose sanctions without congressional action.

By Tuesday, watching the recession looming and the negotiations waning, Senate Republicans announced their own sanctions legislation that would also provide the Ukrainian government with an additional $500 million. military finance.

Mr Menendez denounced the move as “partisan imposition” and said the proposal “largely reflects what Democrats have agreed to.”

“A partisan victory is not as valuable as a divisive message from Washington, which only benefits Putin,” he said.

Although partisans debate over the best way to proceed, there is little division in the Senate over whether additional sanctions could change Mr. Putin’s behaviour.

Even Senator Josh Hawley, Republican of Missouri, who has argued that allowing Ukraine to join NATO would strain the US security situation at a time when it needs to focus on China, also endorsed the imposition of additional sanctions.

“If they get to a point where their financial system is severely damaged, I think that absolutely sends a message,” Mr. Hawley said in a brief interview. “In the new era in which we are entering Europe, we will have to do more with less.”

Only Senator Rand Paul, Republican Party of Kentuckywho have long opposed the use of sanctions, and Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont, has publicly opposed the proposed bill.

“Sanctions against Russia will be imposed as a result of its actions, and Russia’s threatened response to such sanctions could lead to major economic upheaval – with devastating effects on Russia.” impacts the energy, banking, food, and everyday needs of ordinary people throughout the world,” Sanders said in a speech from the Senate floor last week.

That argument has also been passed by some progressive members of the House of Representatives.

However, a Russian invasion would most likely only garner more support to impose sanctions, although both the House and Senate are expected to take a break until the last week. end of February. It would also remove the dispute over the timing of sanctions that seems to have strained Senate negotiators: whether sanctions should be imposed before an invasion.

“I can tell you this,” Mr. Risch said. “If there was an invasion, there would be a lot of support for this bill.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/18/us/politics/congress-russia-sanctions.html Unable to agree on Russia Sanctions Bill, Senate settles for a statement

Fry Electronics Team

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