The Senate voted Wednesday, 97-2, to pass a measure that would toughen sanctions on Russia and, in Republicans' first significant blow to President Donald Trump's agenda, prevent the White House from unilaterally easing or removing the sanctions imposed by President Barack Obama in 2014 and 2016.
The bipartisan measure would require the president to inform Congress before taking any action that could alter US foreign policy "with regard to the Russian Federation," including changes to the sanctions regime imposed by Obama in response to Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014 and meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
Republican Sens. Mike Lee and Rand Paul were the only GOP members to oppose the bill, which was cosponsored by Republicans Bob Corker, Lindsey Graham, John McCain, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
The bill still needs to pass the House and be signed by Trump to become law. But it seems likely to annoy the White House, which began looking into easing or lifting sanctions on Russia just days after Trump was inaugurated. The inquiries raised red flags among Obama-administration holdovers at the State Department, who asked Congress to preempt any attempts by Trump to alter the sanctions regime.