Senate Democrats fail to stop Trump from lifting sanctions on firms linked to Putin friend

Senate Democrats on Wednesday came up short in a vote to stop the Trump administration from easing sanctions on companies linked to Oleg Deripaska, a Russian billionaire with ties to Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin.

A motion to push that resolution forward in the Republican-majority Senate, which required a 60-vote majority to pass, came up three votes shy in a proceeding that saw 11 GOP senators side with Democrats.

The only one to miss the vote was Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. He was meeting with women who had accused his 2016 presidential campaign of sexual misconduct, his spokesman, Josh Miller-Lewis, told CNBC.

The failure to pass the motion effectively killed the resolution. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., pushed the sanctions resolution forward as a rebuke to the Treasury Department’s announcement in December that it would lift economic restrictions on Rusal, En+ and other companies in which Deripaska owned stakes.

The companies had “committed to significantly diminish Deripaska’s ownership and sever his control,” Treasury said in a statement at the time, adding that Deripaska himself will remain under sanctions.

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, who had warned as a presidential candidate in the 2012 election that Russia is the United States’ top geopolitical foe, voted against Schumer’s resolution.

A spokeswoman for Romney said his vote “was in line with longstanding U.S. policy and will help preserve our leverage to gain concessions from other bad actors. The senator expects the administration to reimpose sanctions if these companies don’t comply.”

Romney’s vote follows a New Year’s Day op-ed in which the former Massachusetts governor, who has been rumored to be mulling a 2020 primary challenge against Trump, signaled he was carving out an independent position from the president.

“Trump’s words and actions have caused dismay around the world,” Romney wrote in the Washington Post op-ed.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had gone to Capitol Hill a day before the vote to address senators’ concerns about the sanctions plan.

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