The House issued a symbolic rebuke to the Trump administration on Russian Federation, overwhelmingly passing a resolution against lifting sanctions on companies tied to oligarch Oleg Deripaska, a Kremlin ally.
The House of Representatives will vote on a similar measure Thursday.
"Treasury sanctioned these companies due to their ownership and control by sanctioned Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, not for the conduct of the companies themselves".
Kennedy said he appreciated Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin's briefing members of the Senate GOP caucus about the administration's efforts to enforce the agreement they reached with the companies to limit Deripaska's control, but he had a hard time believing it would work. Only 11 Republicans in the Senate voted for the measure, which failed to win the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster.
The deadline for Congress to disapprove of the sanctions is Thursday. Two of the companies taking over Deripaska's shares would be the Swiss commodities firm Glencore, which has done business with Deripaska for years and owns a small stake in the Russian oil company Rosneft, and the Russian bank VTB, which has been nicknamed Putin's piggy bank.
Under a 2017 sanctions law, Congress has the authority to halt any decision by the Trump administration to weaken sanctions, providing lawmakers with a 30-day window to reject the plan.
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"Congress can not just look the other way when the administration rushes a decision like this", said House Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel. "Deripaska has been Putin's main man in the private sector and the USA should hold his feet to the fire without showing any mercy", Browder told Newsweek. Susan Collins of ME, one of the Republicans who voted with Democrats, said after the first vote.
One of the firms, aluminum company Rusal, recently installed a board chairman who has backed the controversial Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014 that got Deripaska sanctioned in the first place, The Daily Beast reported on Wednesday.
No House Republicans spoke on the House floor in favor of the Trump administration's decision.
Democrat Eliot Engel, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the bipartisan result sent a strong message to the Trump administration which he said was "trying to make an end run around Congress on an issue as important as Russian Federation sanctions".
Schumer, in comments on the Senate floor, questioned why more Republicans weren't willing to support the resolution, given their decades-long rhetoric about standing up toward Russian Federation and Putin.