Senate Approves Tougher Sanctions on Russia

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The Senate voted 97-2 this afternoon in favor of tougher sanctions on Russia:

The sanctions legislation the Senate passed overwhelmingly Wednesday afternoon would represent a major power grab from the White House on U.S.-Russia policy….It would pave the way for Congress to wield far more control over the country’s fraught relationship with Russia….If it becomes law, the president would find it far more difficult to pursue the kinds of Russia sanctions relief that his team is said to have discussed with Russian officials before his inauguration. Those discussions, and potentially others, are what have gotten this White House in the hot water it’s in now.

I’m OK with this both on the merits (Russia deserves tougher sanctions) and as a matter of governance (Congress should assert itself instead of leaving foreign policy solely to the president).

But here’s the part I’ve never liked about congressional sanctions: they last forever until Congress lifts them, and political considerations make it very difficult to lift sanctions. I’d prefer to see them treated more like a criminal sentence, put in place for a specific amount of time.

In the case of Russia, for example, perhaps they’d be put in place for 2-4 years. For the first two years, the president has no discretion. For the next two years, the sanctions stay in place but the president has authority to reduce or eliminate them. After four years they’re lifted completely unless Congress affirmatively votes to renew them.

This would prevent sanctions from settling into an eternal ooze due to little more than inertia. It would also prevent the lifting of sanctions from becoming enormous public spectacles. They’d just quietly end at some point unless half the House and 60 percent of the Senate felt strongly enough that they needed to stay in place.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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