Trump's move to ease Russian Federation sanctions survives Senate vote


The U.S. Senate on Wednesday narrowly upheld a Trump administration plan to lift sanctions against three companies linked to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The House of Representatives will vote on a similar measure Thursday.

The Democratic-controlled chamber overwhelmingly voted 362 to 53 approving the bill that would block the Treasury Department's December move to lift sanctions on companies connected to Oleg Deripaska.

However, the effort fell three Senators short of the 60 needed to end debate and hold a vote on the resolution.

Congress has the power to reject any lessening of sanctions on Russian Federation, but only if it has enough votes. 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 30 days to review the lifting of sanctions.

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Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said last week that Deripaska remains under sanctions, "his property and interests remain blocked, and any companies he controls are also sanctioned".

Democrats' attempt to undermine President Trump's decisions on Russian Federation sanctions went down to defeat in the Senate on Wednesday as they weren't able to win over enough Republicans to overcome a GOP filibuster. "With the threat that Russian Federation poses to the United States, to our friends and allies around the world, Congress can not just look the other way", Engel said.

Democrats had been optimistic they would get 60 votes on Wednesday, after 11 Republicans made the unusual break from Trump policies and supported the resolution in procedural voting on Tuesday.

Mnuchin made two trips to Capitol Hill to try to convince lawmakers that the deal was sound, arguing that keeping the sanctions would hurt the U.S. economy and that Treasury had put in place regulations where an independent third party would control the shares that Deripaska relinquished.

However, European governments and American manufacturers have urged the Senate not to reimpose the sanctions, which have reportedly caused the price of aluminum to rise. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi left the classified briefing for House members declaring it "one of the worst" briefings she'd been to in the Trump administration.

At the time that it made a decision to relieve sanctions on Deripaska, the Treasury Department issued a statement arguing that its new policies toward Deripaska did not constitute lifting sanctions.