US Senate defies Donald Trump move to ease Russia sanctions
Eleven Republican join Democrats in disapproving president’s plan
Washington — The US Senate voted on Tuesday to move ahead with a resolution disapproving a Trump administration plan to ease sanctions on Russian companies tied to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, clearing the way for debate and a vote on the plan.
The vote marked a rare break from President Donald Trump. Eleven of Trump’s fellow Republicans joined Democrats to vote 57-42 in favour of a motion to proceed to the resolution of disapproval. Republicans hold a slim 53-47 seat majority in the 100-member Senate.
The Senate vote came shortly after treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin came to the Capitol to urge Republicans to oppose the Democratic-backed resolution of disapproval. But several said they wanted more time to consider the move to ease sanctions on Russia before making a final decision on its fate.
The treasury department said in December it would lift sanctions imposed in April on the core businesses of Deripaska, including aluminum company Rusal, its parent En+, and power firm EuroSibEnergo, watering down the toughest penalties imposed on Russian entities since Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea. Deripaska himself would remain subject to US sanctions.
To take effect and block the plan to lift the sanctions, the resolution of disapproval would need to pass the Republican-led Senate as well as the House of Representatives, where Democrats hold a majority of seats. It would also have to survive a potential veto by Trump.
Representative Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 Democrat in the House, introduced a similar resolution of disapproval in that chamber on Tuesday.