A bipartisan attempt to condemn the Trump administration for relaxing Russia sanctions stalled in the Senate Wednesday after Republicans banded together to block the effort.
The bill would have formally rebuked the administration before it moves ahead with plans to lift sanctions on companies linked to oligarch Oleg Deripaska, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
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The bill needed 60 votes to advance to passage but fell three votes short this afternoon.
Eleven Senate Republicans joined Democrats in supporting the measure. They weren’t convinced by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s argument that the sanctions should be lifted because the Russian firms had reorganized and had severed Deripaska’s control.
“It’s a close case,” Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) said on CNN Wednesday. “I can’t in good conscience vote to lift sanctions on Deripaska.”
In addition to Kennedy, Republicans who backed the effort included Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine).
Republicans who blocked the bill defended the administration’s decision because they said it resulted in significant changes at the companies — Rusal, EN+ and EuroSibEnergo. Some saw it as nothing but a political stunt instigated by Democrats to attack President Donald Trump.
Mnuchin said Deripaska will remain sanctioned and that the companies could face sanctions again if they backtrack on their deal with the U.S.
“This agreement does nothing to change the sealed fate of Deripaska, the direct target of the sanctions,” Senate Banking Chairman Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) said.