The U.S. Senate on Wednesday narrowly upheld a Trump administration plan to lift sanctions against three companies linked to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Eleven Republicans in the Senate joined Democrats in an effort to enforce the sanctions against the giant aluminum firm Rusal and two companion companies, but their effort failed on a 57-42 vote, three short of the number needed to advance the measure.
Numerous lawmakers had questioned the U.S. Treasury Department's decision in December to lift the sanctions that were imposed on Deripaska's core businesses — Rusal; its parent, En+; and the power firm EuroSibEnergo — in response to Moscow's takeover of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in 2014.
Treasury argued that it was appropriate to lift the sanctions imposed last April because Deripaska had committed to curtailing his ownership of the companies and sever his control.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said last week that Deripaska remains under sanctions, "his property and interests remain blocked, and any companies he controls are also sanctioned.''
In pushing for the sanctions to be enforced, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York said, "For a very long time, the Republican Party predicated its foreign policy on taking a tougher line against Russia and Putin. In so many campaigns for president, we Democrats were accused of not being tough enough on the Russians."
But now, Schumer said, "it seems that acquiescence to [President Donald Trump], a fear of breaking with the president, has held back too many of my Republican colleagues from supporting this resolution.''
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky reiterated that Deripaska's influence over the companies was being limited and called the vote a "Democratic stunt," even as the 11 Republicans joined Democrats in the unsuccessful effort to overturn Treasury's action.