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Defying Trump, U.S. Senate advances measure critical of easing Russia sanctions

Reuters logo Reuters 1/15/2019 Patricia Zengerle
FILE: Russian aluminium tycoon Oleg Deripaska waits before the talks of Russian President Vladimir Putin with South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia June 22, 2018. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin © Reuters FILE: Russian aluminium tycoon Oleg Deripaska waits before the talks of Russian President Vladimir Putin with South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia June 22, 2018. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

WASHINGTON, Jan 15 (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate voted on Tuesday to move ahead with a resolution disapproving of a Trump administration plan to ease sanctions on Russian companies tied to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, clearing the way for debate and a vote on the plan.

The vote marked a rare break from President Donald Trump. Eleven of Trump's fellow Republicans joined Democrats to vote 57-42 in favor of a motion to proceed to the resolution of disapproval.

Republicans hold a slim 53-47 seat majority in the 100-member Senate.

The Senate vote came shortly after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin came to the Capitol to urge Republicans to oppose the Democratic-backed resolution of disapproval. But several said they wanted more time to consider the move to ease sanctions on Russia before making a final decision on its fate.

The Treasury Department said in December it would lift sanctions imposed in April on the core businesses of Deripaska, including aluminum giant Rusal, its parent, En+, and power firm EuroSibEnergo, watering down the toughest penalties imposed on Russian entities since Moscow's 2014 annexation of Crimea. Deripaska himself would remain subject to U.S. sanctions.

To take effect and block the plan to lift the sanctions, the resolution of disapproval would need to pass the Republican-led Senate as well as the House of Representatives, where Democrats hold a majority of seats. It would also have to survive a potential veto by Trump.

Representative Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 Democrat in the House, introduced a similar resolution of disapproval in that chamber on Tuesday.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; editing by Grant McCool)

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