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Senate set to vote on tougher Russian sanctions in bipartisan response to election interference

Senate leaders have struck a deal to toughen sanctions on Russia, a rare bipartisan accord amid multiple probes into Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible coordination with President Trump's campaign.

The agreement -- the first congressional response to increased Russian aggressions -- would firm up existing sanctions and impose new ones. Among those being targeted are a wide array of what the senators call "corrupt Russian actors," those engaged in hacking, seizure of state resources, human rights abuses and supplying arms to the Syrian regime.

Most notably, the measure would require Congress to review any effort by the Trump administration to loosen sanctions on Russia.

"No nation state should be able to attack our sovereignty without suffering an unacceptable response," said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) "Sanctions represent only one facet of our foreign policy tools."

Votes are expected Wednesday as Republicans and Democrats join in an unusual display of bipartisanship.

"We are ensuring that the United States continues to punish President [Vladimir] Putin for his reckless and destabilizing actions," said Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.).

Schumer said the result would send a "powerful and bipartisan statement to Russia and any other country who might try to interfere in our elections that they will be punished, and that Congress will stand firm in making sure they are punished, Democrat and Republican."

Efforts to slap sanctions on Russia for interfering in the election had stalled in Congress, but gained momentum last week as the Senate began considering a separate bill to impose broader sanctions on Iran.

Democrats balked that penalties on Iran should not take precedent over Russia for its annexation of Ukraine, attacks in Syria and interference in the U.S. election.

Negotiators agreed to add the Russia provisions as an amendment to the Iran sanctions legislation.

They also agreed to first allow a Tuesday vote of disapproval on Trump's recent arms deal with Saudi Arabia. Senators from both parties, led by Rand Paul (R-Ky.), oppose the deal but they do not appear to have enough votes to stop it.  

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