WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Senate voted almost unanimously on Thursday to slap new sanctions on Russia, putting President Donald Trump in a tough position by forcing him to take a hard line on Moscow or veto the legislation and infuriate his own Republican Party.
The legislation all but dashes Trump’s hopes for warmer ties with Moscow as his administration is dogged by congressional and special counsel investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election to sway it in Trump’s favor.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has repeatedly denied the conclusions of U.S. intelligence agencies that Moscow interfered using cyber warfare methods, has threatened retaliation against the legislation.
The Senate backed the bill, which also imposes sanctions on Iran and North Korea, by a margin of 98-2 with strong support from Trump’s fellow Republicans as well as Democrats.
The bill, which includes a provision that allows Congress to stop any effort by Trump to ease existing sanctions on Russia, will now be sent to the White House for Trump to sign into law or veto.
It is the first major foreign policy legislation approved by Congress under Trump, who has struggled to advance his domestic agenda despite Republicans controlling the Senate and House of Representatives. The strong bipartisan support for the bill was a sharp contrast to the bitter partisan rancor during debate over how to overhaul the U.S. healthcare system.
If Trump chooses to veto it, the bill is expected to garner enough support in both chambers to override his veto and pass it into law. The sanctions measure has already passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 419-3.
Republicans and Democrats have pushed for more sanctions partly as a response to the election allegations. Trump denies any collusion between his campaign and Moscow.
Republican Senator John McCain, a leading congressional voice calling for a firm line against Russia, said before the vote: “The United States…