Last week we sent a clear, bipartisan message to President Trump that we should strengthen — not weaken — Russian sanctions, and that Congress must have a say on Russia policy.
I joined a bipartisan group of colleagues, including Republican Senators John McCain, Marco Rubio, and Lindsay Graham, and Democrats Claire McCaskill and Ben Cardin, to introduce legislation to hold Russia accountable and make it clear to the world that America will not tolerate interference in our democratic institutions.
The President likes to talk a lot about “America first” — but his talk on sanctions sure sounds a lot more like “Russia first.”
Since taking office, the President’s senior advisors have suggested he might relax sanctions at a time when they are needed more than ever. Lifting sanctions now would only reward Russia’s attempts to undermine democracy — from Crimea and Eastern Ukraine to our own U.S. election.
That’s why our bill would bar the President from taking any action on Russia sanctions until Congress has had a chance to weigh in.
Republicans and Democrats worked together to craft the current, tough sanctions regime, and hold Russia accountable. Lifting them now would only reward bad behavior. As Senator McCain has said, “Every American should be alarmed” by Russia’s interference in our election.
The Ukrainian community in Ohio knows firsthand the dangers of unchecked Russian aggression. Actions have to have consequences. Russia needs to clean up its act, and Senator Portman and I both agree that now is not the time to roll back sanctions.
In fact, far from easing up, we should press for further sanctions in response to Russia’s continuing aggression in Ukraine — and for its cyber-attacks against our country and its manipulation of our electoral process. On the Banking Committee, I intend to work with my Republican counterparts to do just that.
But our first step is this commonsense, bipartisan legislation to give Congress — and more importantly, the people we represent — a say in critical national security debates.
The writer is a U.S. senator from Ohio.