WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Senator Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said on Thursday the panel could take up a bill to impose new sanctions on Russia as soon as this summer.
Corker said he expects U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to testify to the committee within weeks about the Trump administration’s policy toward Russia. Corker said he would be willing to consider a sanctions bill after that, if panel members still wanted to do so.
Some members of the committee, particularly Democrats angry over alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election to help Republican Donald Trump win, have been pushing to advance a new package of sanctions on Russia.
But Corker and other senators had suggested it would be prudent to wait at a delicate time in dealings with Moscow, especially in Syria, where Russian forces have played an instrumental role during the civil war.
Democrats said they still backed sanctions, but were willing to wait to hear from the Trump administration.
“I do look forward to Mr. Tillerson explaining to us the administration’s Russian policy and what he has seen its impact to be,” Senator Ben Cardin, the committee’s senior Democrat, said at a committee business meeting.
U.S. intelligence agencies concluded in January that Moscow tried to tilt the 2016 election in Trump’s favor, including by hacking into the emails of senior Democrats. Russia has denied the allegation. Trump has denied any collusion between his campaign and Moscow, but Federal Bureau of Investigation and congressional probes into the matter have dogged the early months of his presidency.
Democratic Senator Chris Murphy said it gives many committee members “great pause” that the Trump administration has not acted against Russia for its efforts to influence the election.
Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Will Dunham