In a rare act of bipartisanship, a nearly unanimous Senate voted to sanction Russia for meddling in our election — all but daring Donald Trump to betray democracy with a veto.
While Donald Trump seems determined to make America best friends with Russia — handing over top secret intelligence and trying to lift sanctions against the country — a nearly united Senate is standing in his way.
On Wednesday, the Senate voted overwhelmingly, 98-2, to impose sanctions on Russia for interfering in the 2016 presidential election. Republicans Mike Lee of Utah and Rand Paul of Kentucky were the only “no” votes.
Trump could veto the bill, but with that kind of bipartisan support, he would be unlikely to get his way.
The sanctions amendment, attached to a larger bill about sanctions on Iran, is a direct rebuke of the recent report that the Trump administration is seeking to lift sanctions that were imposed in December in direct response to Russia’s attempt to influence the 2016 election.
The vote also comes one day after a report that Russia orchestrated cyber attacks on voting systems in 39 states in an apparent attempt to alter or delete voter information.
In the last several weeks, the Senate has listened to testimony from current and former members of the intelligence community that Russia indisputably attempted to hijack our democracy.
Former FBI Director James Comey warned that Russia is “coming after America,” and will unquestionably continue to influence our elections in the future — through weaponizing social media, as it did in 2016, and through cyber attacks on the nation’s election infrastructure.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said that at least on this issue — the need to impose sanctions on Russia — Democrats and Republicans can agree.
“Democrats and Republicans are joining together to warn the president he cannot lift sanctions without our approval,” the New York senator said.
While imposing sanctions is an important step, far more serious action must be taken in order to ensure our election system. Republicans in Congress have been reluctant to support a full and thorough — and most importantly, independent — investigation into exactly what happened during the 2016 election.
That they are willing to stand with Democrats in sending a message to Trump about Russia is a good first step, but they must go much further, and support all necessary investigations, if they are serious about securing our democratic system from further attacks.