The Senate voted Wednesday to advance a measure that is likely to include provisions sanctioning Russia for interfering in the 2016 election.
The Senate voted 92-7 to begin debating a bill sanctioning Iran over ballistic missile testing and other violations of a United Nations Security Council resolution. As part of that work, a bipartisan group of senators is working on one or more amendments that would also punish Russia over the election cyberattacks as well as their invasion of Ukraine and other misdeeds.
Now that the Senate has voted to begin debating the bill, a vote on the sanctions could come as early as next week.
Lawmakers will weigh adopting the sanctions as Congress begins to delve deeper into Russia's efforts to undermine the presidential election and whether Russian operatives collaborated with officials working for President Trump's campaign.
The provision sanctioning Russia would be attached to an underlying sanctions bill targeting Iran over its ballistic missile program, weapons transfers, human rights violations and sponsorship of terrorism in the Middle East.
Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., a senior member of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, said the Iran sanctions are needed because the Trump administration has not taken a tough stand on the matter.
"With this administration unable to articulate a clear vision for American leadership in the world, the time is right for Congress to assert its influence on foreign policy," Menendez said. "Now is not the time for Congress to turn a blind eye to hostile behavior."
While the wording of amendments sanctioning Russia is not firm, it would likely codify into law the Jan. 1 sanctions implemented by President Obama punishing Russian individuals and entities and ousting 35 Russian diplomats.
Democrats said before the vote that they would block final passage unless it includes Russia sanctions.
"Our Republican colleagues should realize it will be very difficult to gather Democratic support for final passage of this bill until we deal with Russia sanctions," said Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. "We feel strongly that we need a tough, effective package of Russia sanctions to move alongside the Iran sanctions.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., told the Washington Examiner "strong" sanctions language is nearly complete and has bipartisan support.