Mr. President, I want to thank my colleagues, Senator Corker and Senator Cardin on their fine work on the Destabilization Activities Act. I especially want to thank Senator Cardin on his leadership on that, as well as Senator Brown and Senator Crapo. And the work that Senator McConnell and Senator Schumer did, as well as a lot of members on the Foreign Relations Committee who care a lot about this.

As I look at this, I look first at the Iranian part of this underlying bill. As you know, we have had many disagreements in the last few years on the Iranian Nuclear Agreement. But it's now critical. This is the time for those who both oppose the agreement and those who supported it to come together to ensure that all of the parties to the agreement are upholding their obligations. When the United States and our allies agreed to the Iranian Nuclear Agreement, we made it clear that we will continue to hold Iran accountable for its nefarious activity outside of the four corners of the agreement. We must hold Iran accountable for missile tests, for financing terrorism, and human rights violations. That is our job. And that's why I was an early cosponsor of the legislation before the Senate today.

The Countering Iran's Destabilizing Activities Act imposes mandatory sanctions on those involved with Iran's ballistic missile program as well as those who fund terrorist organization and commit human rights violations. Iran's basllistic missile program is a threat to regional and global security and United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231 makes it illegal for Iran to develop ballistic missiles that could carry a nuclear weapon. Any person or business involved in helping Iran obtain illegal weapons should be banned from doing business with the United States, have their assests immediately frozen, and their travel restricted. Minimizing the threat Iran poses also does mean holding it accountable for funding terrorist groups that threaten Israel and seek to destabilize the region. We should be doing everything in our power to better track terrorist financing so that we can stop the flow of money that funds suicide bombers and illict weapons.

Our mission here is clear. We must protect our own citizens and our allies by enacting strong legislation to ensure that Iran does not cheat on its international commitment. Iran must know that if it violates the rules, it will be held accountable. Democrats and Republicans have come together to get this done, and it is my hope that we can pass the legislation this week, including the amendment imposing strong sanctions against Russia, which is essential to protecting our democracy from foreign interference.

Seventeen United States intelligence agencies confirm that Russia tried to interefere in the 2016 election. And that is not all. We know that Russia issued covert cyberattacks, espionage, and harmful propoganda to undermine our democracy. They launched cyberattacks against local election systems. A U.S. voting systems software company and the e-mails of more than 100 local election officials. Russian-backed criminals hacked into Yahoo and stole data from 500 million accounts. They repeatedly harassed American diplomats in Moscow.

The Former Director of Intelligence James Clapper recently testified that Russia will continue to interfere in our political system. This is what he said. He said, "I believe Russia is now emboldened to continue such activities in the future both here and around the world." And to so even more intensely. If there's ever been a clarion call for vigilance and action against the threat to our very foundation of the political system, this episode is it. Vigilance, that is what we need right now.

That is why I joined a bipartisan group of my colleagues to introduce the Countering Russian Hostilities Act, legislation that would impose strong sanctions against Russia. These sanctions would address Russia's cyberattacks, its human rights violations, and its illegal annexation of land in Ukraine and Georgia. I'm also the cosponsor of the Russia Sanctions Review Act, bipartisan legislation that would require congressional review if sanctions against Russia are rolled back. The Russia sanctions amendment offered today contains essential portions of both of these pieces of legislation. 

After those 17 intelligence agencies confirmed that Russia interfered in our election, President Obama enacted important sanctions against officials int he Russian government and hackers conducting malicious cyber activity on behalf of the Russian government. The amendement before us today would codify those sanctions. The amendment also strengthens sanctions against Russia's energy sector, corrupt Russia officials, and those who supply weapons to the Assad regime. 

The day that the Obama Administration was imposing these additional sanctions on Russia, I was actually with Senators McCain and Graham in Eastern Europe. The goal of our trip was to reinforce support for NATO and our allies in the face of increased Russian aggression. On the trip we went to the Baltics, Ukraine, and Georgia--countries on the front lines of this fight and they know Russia's playbook well. In our meetings with Presidents and Prime Ministers of these countries, it was increasingly evident that if we don't stop Russia now, cyber attacks against governments, political party, newspapers, and companies will only get worse.

We heard about websites being shut down and internet access limited when one government--the government of Estonia--simply had the audacity to move a bronze statue from a public square to a cemetery. It was of a Russian fighter. The Russian government didn't like it so they cut down their internet access. Or members of the Ukrainian Parliament who were invited to Lithuania. What happens to Lithuanians in the Parliament? They get hacked into. Ukraine itself was targeted by Russian hackers more than 6,500 times over a two-month period. And most recently, Russia tried to undermine elections in France. For years our allies have been subjected to Russian aggression and invasions, but they are undeterred, unwilling to give up on that which they fought so hard for. Independence, freedom, democracy.

So this is not just about defending our own democracy as we look at these Russian sanctions that are before us today as we look at the investigation that's ongoing, looking at the interference in our election. It is about defending a democratic way of life in democracies across the world. It is not just about the simple word election or the simple word democracy. It is not just about one candidate or one political party. As Senator Rubio has noted, the next time it will be the other party. No, this is about our Constitution. It's about our own independence from foreign powers. It is about freedom and the rights guaranteed to us in our own Constitution.

If that is undermined, if foreign governments are allowed to come in and hand-pick who their candidate is based on either propoganda or on cyberattacks, then we lose our constitutional rights because we, the people, are no longer determining who our representatives are. Other countries are.

The world continues to look to America for our steadfast leadership. The United States, a beacon for freedom and democracy, must continue to stand up against Russian aggression not just in word, but in deed. That is why it's so important that the Senate is coming together today to pass strong sanctions against the Russian government. We want the Russian people to be able to have a democracy. We want them to be able to have a democracy that doesn't do things like bring down planes in Ukraine, that doesn't do things like try to influence other countries' elections. That's why these sanctions are so important. 

We know that the Russian government today is actively working to undermine our democracy and hurt American businesses. That is part of the cyber war. And we know that this unprecedented interference has been orchestrated by the Kremlin so that Americans actually lose faith in our own political system. Over time Russia has grown more determined in its effort to weaken democracies and expand its sphere of influence.

Now more than ever, Americans are looking to the Senate for leadership. We must stand strong and united so that Russia and other nations that attack our democracy must not go unchecked. The amendement before us on the sanction sis an important step in doing just that.

Mr. President, I yield the floor.