U.S Senate Votes Overwhelmingly in Favor of New Sanctions Against Russia and Iran

The new legislation includes a mechanism that would force Trump to get Congress approval before easing any existing sanctions

A missile with an anti-Israeli banner, which reads in Persian, "Death to Israel," at an army parade just outside Tehran, Iran, Tuesday, April 18, 2017.
AP Photo / Vahid Salemi

The U.S. Senate voted overwhelmingly on Thursday for legislation imposing new sanctions on Iran and Russia, and setting up a mechanism to force President Donald Trump to get Congress' approval before easing any existing sanctions.

As voting continued, the 100-member Senate backed the measure by a margin of 96-2. Republican Senator Rand Paul and Bernie Sanders, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, were the only two "no" votes.

The bill includes new sanctions on Iran over its ballistic missile program and other activities not related to the international nuclear agreement reached with the United States and other world powers.

The Senate this week also added new sanctions punishing Russia for meddling in the 2016 U.S. election, annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region and support for Syria's government in that country's six-year-long civil war.

Lawmakers also voted overwhelmingly earlier on Thursday to add provision to the bill allowing the U.S. space agency NASA to continue using Russian-made rocket engines and reaffirming the U.S. commitment to the NATO alliance.

To become law, the legislation still must pass the House of Representatives and be signed by Trump. House aides said they expected the chamber would begin to debate the measure in the coming weeks, although they could not predict when it might face a final vote.

Trump's secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, had questioned the legislation in testimony in the House of Representatives on Wednesday.

"I would urge Congress to ensure any legislation allows the president to have the flexibility to adjust sanctions to meet the needs of what is always an evolving diplomatic situation," he told the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

However, aides in both the Senate and the House said they expected support for the bill would be strong enough to override a Trump veto if necessary.