With the House considering tighter North Korea sanctions, Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham pressed the Senate Tuesday to move their legislation on Russia.
The two hawkish Republicans chided Congress for doing "nothing" after Russia's meddling in the presidential election last year and warned against allowing a public perception that its behavior has been "forgotten or forgiven."
McCain, Graham and a group of eight other senators introduced sanctions legislation this year that would target cyber activities by Russian intelligence agencies and energy sector, as well as provide funding for diplomatic programs to counter Moscow's influence. They released their statement a day after Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and the head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the panel doesn't plan on taking up sanctions against Russia anytime soon.
"It's been six months since Russia attacked the fundamentals of our democracy by interfering in the 2016 election," McCain and Graham said in a joint statement. "Since then, Russia has received a slap on the wrist from the Obama administration, but Congress has taken no action."
Their call to action comes as the House weighs a bill that would tighten already stringent U.S. sanctions against North Korea, which has defiantly pursued a nuclear missile program during the early days of the Trump administration.
The threat posed to the Pacific region and the United States by Kim Jong Un's regime has vied with Russia for attention in news headlines recently.
"Now is not the time to send a signal to Russia that all is forgotten or forgiven," McCain and Graham said.
The relationship with Moscow has turned chilly over its backing of the Assad regime and its use of chemical weapons in Syria, the most recent source of tension after Russian President Vladimir Putin annexed Crimea in 2014 and fueled conflict in neighboring Ukraine.
Meanwhile, intelligence committees in Congress are investigating Russia's role in the election after the U.S. intelligence community said it intervened with hacking and disinformation campaigns to help elect President Trump.
The administration has been hounded by suspicions of campaign connections to the Kremlin, which the president has dismissed as Democrats' ploys to distract from an election loss.