A top Senate Republican leader blocked passage Thursday of a non-binding bipartisan resolution related to Russia's interference in the 2016 election, as fallout from the controversial summit between President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin continued to reverberate through the GOP-controlled Congress.
Also, senators were set to vote within the hour on another resolution written by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, that rejects a proposal from Putin that might allow the Russian government interview American officials, including former US ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul.
Sen. John Cornyn, a GOP Texan and the second-ranking Republican in the chamber, complained the first resolution was "purely a symbolic act" and said he wanted Senate committees to dig into the issues involved before deciding next steps. Cornyn said those steps could include new sanctions against Russia to punish that country for its meddling in US elections, something Cornyn said he supports.
The resolution Cornyn blocked was authored by Sen. Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican, and Sen. Chris Coons, a Delaware Democrat. Both are prominent Trump critics.
Their proposal rejects Putin's denial of election interference, calls for the immediate enactment of sanctions passed by Congress last year, and asks Senate committees to hold hearings into what exactly happened in the private meeting between Putin and Trump, including obtaining relevant notes and other information.
Cornyn noted that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is scheduled to appear before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee next week and that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has asked that committee, as well as the Senate Banking Committee, to hold hearings soon on the implementation of legislation that Congress passed last year imposing sanctions on Russia over the election interference issue.
Flake said from the floor that "empirical, objective truth has taken a beating over the past 18 months."
"As we saw in Helsinki on Monday, entertaining the untruths of a dictator has the same effect," Flake continued. "Passing this resolution will let our constituents, the administration, our allies, and our adversaries know that here in the Senate, we do not entertain the deceit of dictators."
Cornyn defended Trump, saying the President agrees Russia interfered despite what he said at the news conference with Putin.
"I agree in Helsinki he was less than clear about that, but he came back and said he's misspoke and reaffirmed his earlier position that, yes, the Russian government had interfered in the election," Cornyn said.
The moves came on the same day a new CBS poll found 68% of Republicans support Trump's actions in Helsinki, more evidence for GOP senators that they may anger their base voters if they move to strongly against the President.
Also Thursday, Sen. Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican, objected to a different resolution from Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent who caucuses with Democrats, that among other things says the Senate accepts the Intelligence Community's findings that Russia meddled in the 2016 elections and takes steps safeguard special counsel Robert Mueller who is investigating that and other issues.
Paul argued Trump's critics are wrong to oppose him trying to work with Putin and Russia.