The U.S. Congress has largely supported President Joe Biden’s decision by confronting Russia with potentially escalating Sanctions for the Ukraine crisis. This is an unusual but fragile alliance as lawmakers prepare for what could be the most difficult foreign policy crisis that the country has ever faced.
However, the next steps can be highly volatile.
Congress is not interested in war, despite rising isolationist sentiments at home. However, Americans are also ambivalent about how the U.S. works to maintain peace. A new poll by The Associated Press, NORC shows that only 26% of Americans would like the U.S. government to have a major role during the Russia-Ukraine war.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stated Wednesday that Russia’s aggression against Ukraine is “an attack upon democracy”, vowing that the United States will stand united with allies around the globe in swiftly imposing sanctions and ensuring financial support for an independent Ukraine.
Pelosi returned from a diplomat overseas trip to the Capitol and positioned the aggression of Russia towards Ukraine alongside the intervention by the United States in its democratic process during 2016.
She said that Vladimir Putin will have to pay a price. She was flanked at her table by legislators who were there with her delegation at the Munich security conference.
Although some Republicans and some Democrats have criticized the Biden administration, they also want the White House more aggressive in imposing sanctions on Russia. However, many Democrats support the White House strategy. This includes the decision by Biden Wednesday to sanction the company that is building the Russia to-Germany Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
Senator Jim Risch, Idaho’s top Republican member of the Foreign Relations Committee, stated that sanctions against Nord Stream 2 were “long overdue” but that they are crucial to show Putin that violating a country’s sovereignty has serious consequences.
Risch, who worked for years with colleagues bipartisanly to end the pipeline, stated: “It’s good to see President Biden doing the right thing.”
Republican leaders sought to direct the conversation in their favor, since they are the party whose defense-hawks once commanded the nation’s national security front. It’s unclear if the GOP today can stop Republicans tapping into a passionate non-interventionist strain unleashed in part by Donald Trump’s “America First” approach.
Trump was the one who tried to remove protections for Ukraine from Republican Party’s platform for 2016. He was then impeached for abuse of power by the House after he pressured the Ukrainian president for details on Biden in advance of the 2020 campaign.
Trump cheered Putin this week as he gathered military forces close to Ukraine’s border. He also recognized the independence from its separatist areas, a move Biden warned was a sign of an invasion. Trump was critical of NATO and worked to disengage the U.S.from the historic partnership, while berating his allies to pay more for defense.
Senator Republican leader Mitch McConnell has been a long-standing champion of NATO. But some in his party are moving away from the traditional Republican position to support Trump’s views.
McConnell stated that he would like to see Biden impose “toughest” sanctions.
However, other Republicans, including Sen. Josh Hawley from Missouri, who is a potential Republican presidential candidate, have said that the U.S. should pay more attention to the larger challenges he believes China poses.
However, the majority of Republican senators support Biden’s sanctions against Putin, even though some are asking for more and taking political punts at Biden for being too timid.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham from South Carolina, who is sometimes Trump’s ally but who is also one the party’s top defense hawks, and who used globetrott with fellow GOP Sen John McCain, incited his late colleague this week by urging Biden not to face Putin more forcefully.
Graham stated that Congress should impose “sanctions of hell” on Putin’s regime and his government when lawmakers return to work next Wednesday.
Ted Cruz, the senator who blocked Biden’s nominations for State Department posts to stop the Russia-to Germany pipeline, announced that he would lift the blockade with the new sanctions. Cruz, R-Texas said that President Biden had taken “positive steps”. “But, much more must be done to counter and deter the threat that Putin presents to our allies across Europe and Ukraine.”
Pelosi stated that Russians must understand their leader’s actions. Pelosi stated, “It’s amazing to see in today and age a dictator roll into a nation.” “This is the exact same tyrant that attacked our democracy in 2016”
It is unclear what Congress will do, if any, to confront Russia. While Congress holds back on their own legislative response, Biden engages U.S. ally in a more global strategy.
Although the Senate supports a strong sanctions package, there are differences between the Senate and White House over its scope and timing. The Senate decided to postpone a vote while the White House pursued their own approach.
Graham suggested a supplemental spending package to Ukraine. Although the country already receives money from the U.S. and defensive equipment, it doesn’t appear that additional funds have been considered.