Iran, Russia sanctions receive bipartisan support from Colorado U.S. Sens. Bennet and Gardner

Author: Peter Marcus - June 16, 2017 - Updated: June 16, 2017

U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner (Colorado Statesman archives)U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner (Colorado Statesman archives)

There was bipartisan applause this week after the U.S. Senate placed new sanctions on Iran and Russia.

Colorado U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet, a Democrat, and Cory Gardner, a Republican, backed the sanctions to punish Iran for recently testing ballistic missiles, as well as human rights abuses, and to signal to Russia that the United States will not tolerate interference in elections, as well as its actions in Syria.

The bill imposes sanctions on anyone involved with Iran’s ballistic missile program and those who do business with them. It also applies sanctions to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and enforces an arms embargo in an effort to combat terrorism.

For Russia, the legislation strengthens existing sanctions against areas of its economy and imposes new sanction on anyone engaged in cyber attacks on behalf of the Russian government.

New sanctions against Russia also were put in place over human rights abuses and anyone who supplied weapons to Syrian President Bashar Hafez al-Assad.

The measure prohibits the White House from lifting sanctions against Russia without congressional approval. It faces an uncertain future in the U.S. House, and it sets up a collision course with President Trump, who is trying to improve relations with Moscow.

“While it will likely not get the attention and coverage it deserves, Republicans and Democrats took action together today against Russia,” Gardner said in a statement. “This bipartisan legislation is a strong message to Vladimir Putin: The United States will not stand idly by as you undermine democracy and human rights around the globe.”

While the bill passed with bipartisan support, Gardner still took a crack at President Obama for pushing the Iran nuclear deal, which sought to ease economic sanctions on Iran if the country reduced nuclear material production.

“One of President Obama’s biggest foreign policy blunders was the nuclear agreement with Iran, which emboldened Tehran (the capital of Iran) to ramp up its nefarious activities, including ballistic missile tests, support for terrorism, and human rights abuses,” Gardner said. “These bipartisan sanctions are a firm response to this grave threat to U.S. national security.”

Bennet applauded the passage of the new bipartisan sanctions as well. But in doing so, he took a jab at President Trump.

“By providing an opportunity for congressional review, we can ensure that the administration can’t roll back sanctions without justification or for inappropriate reasons,” Bennet said in a statement. “Russia continues to deploy a wide range of tools aimed at harming the United States, and it is clear that, if left unchecked, Russia will continue to undermine our democratic institutions.

“The Russia sanctions are critical to countering the Kremlin’s continued threats to our interests and those of our allies. The House should pass this bill quickly, and the president should sign it into law.  This will send a strong message that there are consequences for Russia’s interference in our democracy.”

Gardner and Bennet also worked on an amendment to the bill that aims at protecting the aerospace industry, which has a large presence in Colorado. Original language in the bill would have sanctioned U.S. civil and commercial aerospace activities. It was an unintended consequence of the legislation’s original language, which did not mean to impose sanctions on the industry.

The amendment allows NASA to move forward with planned missions, which often benefits aerospace companies based in Colorado. Without passage of the amendment, Bennet and Gardner said NASA would have had to close up to seven space missions.

“American leadership in space is vital to our national security and position in the world,” Bennet said. “Colorado’s robust aerospace community plays an essential role in maintaining that leadership. This bipartisan amendment ensures NASA and commercial space missions can move forward as planned and continues efforts to reduce our reliance on Russia in the long term.”

“I offered a bipartisan amendment to the Iran sanctions bill today for one simple reason: It will ensure NASA and our commercial space industry will continue to be the world’s leader in aerospace,” Gardner added. “Without today’s amendment, U.S. astronauts would be forced to continue to rely on Russia for access to space for even longer.

“I’m proud Colorado is a leader in aerospace and I will continue to support my home state’s efforts as they play a critical role in space exploration. I’m thankful the Senate came together today to approve this amendment and reaffirm America’s leadership in space.”

Peter Marcus

Peter Marcus

Peter Marcus is senior statehouse reporter for Colorado Politics. He covers the legislature and previously covered politics, the governor’s office, the legislature and Congress for The Durango Herald. He joined The Herald in 2014 from The Colorado Statesman, a Denver-based political weekly. The Washington Post twice named Marcus one of the nation’s top state-based political and legislative reporters.