WASHINGTON – Senate and House lawmakers from both political parties urged the Biden administration on Tuesday to respond to the Russian invasion of Ukraine with the heaviest of economic sanctions to stop further aggression.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told reporters in Kentucky that he hoped Biden would issue the “toughest possible sanctions” after Russian President Vladimir Putin recognized two separatist regions of Donetsk and Luhansk as independent of Ukraine and sent in troops.
President Joe Biden and European leaders immediately responded with economic sanctions that included halting the natural gas pipeline Nord Stream 2 from Russia to Germany, as well as financial sanctions against all members of the Russian Duma who supported the military invasion.
Nevada’s two U.S. senators, Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen, both Democrats, called on the Biden administration to hold Russia accountable for military aggression against Ukraine.
“The United States must impose crippling sanctions against Putin and Russia, while continuing to support Ukraine through security assistance and help our strategic partner to defend itself,” said Rosen, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Cortez Masto, in a statement, said: “Russia will be held accountable.”
“The United States must send a clear message to Putin and enact devastating economic sanctions to ensure Russia pays for this invasion,” Cortez Masto said.
Both Nevada senators were among several Democrats who voted last month for a sanctions bill on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline sponsored by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, which failed to clear a legislative hurdle of 60 votes to move forward.
Another sanction bill on the pipeline is being sponsored by Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J.
Nonetheless, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz halted certification of the pipeline on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, lawmakers in both parties said the Biden administration, the European Union and NATO allies must respond to Russian aggression with a flow of arms to Ukraine.
Republican and Democratic lawmakers also said additional sanctions should be imposed on Russian financial institutions and interests to stop the aggression against Ukraine that began with the 2014 Russian annexation of Crimea.
“Since the unwarranted attack in 2014, Russian-backed separatists have spurred persistent violence in Ukraine,” said Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., a member of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, energy and environment.
“Now aided by Russian troops on the ground in Ukraine, a new course has been set that is bound to lead to an escalation in violence toward the Ukrainian people,” Titus said in a statement.
“We’ve reached a tipping point,” she said. “It is critical that democracies of the world push back on autocratic forces seeking to undermine them.”
A bipartisan group of lawmakers announced Tuesday that a supplemental spending bill to address the Ukraine crisis could be ready for a vote next week, when the House and Senate return from a Presidents’ Day work period.
Criticism of Biden
House Republicans, meanwhile, voiced their support for sanctions, condemnation of Russia for the action against Ukraine, while criticizing the president and Democratic leaders in Congress for failing to act quickly.
Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., said the Biden administration and Democratic leaders focused on progressive policies like the Green New Deal while the Russian aggression toward Ukraine began.
“While energy production in Russia and Iran is booming, at home, the majority party is working to drive through an agenda which continues the direct attacks on domestic energy producers,” Amodei said in a statement.
Amodei called Biden’s energy policy “a self-inflicted disaster.”
In a joint statement, House GOP leaders headed by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., charged that the Biden administration slow-walked weapons deliveries to Ukraine, failed to deliver pre-emptive sanctions and waived sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
“China, Iran and North Korea are watching. They must see us respond firmly to this Russian aggression,” the leaders’ statement read.
Nevada Republican U.S. Senate candidate Adam Laxalt — who is running against Cortez Masto — said in a statement that “the Biden administration has done nothing but invite conflict through weakness.”
Laxalt said the president’s “flat-footed response has all but guaranteed unnecessary bloodshed, just as he did in Afghanistan.”
Meanwhile, key Republicans in the Senate such as McConnell and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., were vocal in their support for the new legislation to help NATO allies in the region and provide direct military aid to Ukraine.