Putin: New sanctions will 'complicate' Russia-US ties

A frequently polarized Senate has found common ground as Republicans and Democrats joined forces to approve a sweeping sanctions bill that uses an array of financial penalties to punish Iran and Russian Federation.

The 100-member Senate backed the measure on Thursday by a margin of 98-2.

The House has yet to take up the measure, which is an amendment to a bill that tightens sanctions on Iran for its ballistic missile tests.

As for Russia sanctions, the new sanctions target among others "those conducting malicious cyber activity on behalf of the Russian government" and "those doing business with the Russian intelligence and defense sectors", according to a press release by Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs.

The bill, which passed by a vote of 98-2, would ensure that President Donald Trump could not unilaterally lift sanctions against Russian Federation; any attempt to do so would have to be approved by Congress.

The bill was now heading toward the House for passage before reaching U.S. President Donald Trump's desk.

The measure also asserts a role for Congress if the White House opts to ease any sanctions against Moscow.

The bipartisan legislation passed overwhelmingly Thursday, 98-2, more than five months after US intelligence agencies determined Moscow had deliberately interfered in the 2016 presidential campaign. Two Obama era State Department officials were alarmed at the review and told Senators Ben Cardin and Lindsey Graham that it appeared the president wanted to lift sanctions on Russian Federation.

But Democrats fear that the White House would be very demanding in its efforts to dilute the legislation.

USA intelligence agencies concluded that Russian Federation sought to influence the American presidential election previous year.

Senior aides told Reuters they expected some sanctions package would eventually pass, but they expected the measure would be changed in the House.

Still, Corker and other Republicans said they expect Trump to sign the bill if it's passed by the House.

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) hailed the lopsided vote in favor of the Iran sanctions bill that he helped shepherd to passage with the Russian Federation measure attached, but he stopped short of echoing previous predictions that Trump would sign the combined sanctions legislation once it clears the House.

Finally, it provides that no sanctions can be lifted by the President without Congressional review. Senators Rand Paul and Bernie Sanders were the only two "no" votes.

"However, we can't accept the threat of illegal and extraterritorial sanctions against European companies", they said.