- Representative Kevin McCarthy called the invasion “reckless and evil” and that Putin “should be held accountable.”
WASHINGTON — With Russian tanks storming Ukraine, Democrats in Congress condemned Vladimir Putin, backed President Joe Biden, and called for more economic sanctions against the Putin regime, while Republicans offered a more divided response.
“Putin’s decision to invade would be a sinister and terrifying move, and it would be his specific mistake,” Senator Chris Murphy wrote on Twitter.
Murphy also said that “Putin has plans for us too,” and the Russian strongman “will use this crisis to try to divide Americans from each other and separate America from our allies.”
“In this, we must remain vigilant and united. This is not a moment for politics to prevail over security,” he added.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat from California, compared Putin’s plans for Ukraine to German dictator Adolf Hitler’s seizure of Czech lands in the Sudetenland in 1938, a pivotal event on the road to World War II.
“The Russians’ attack on Ukraine is an attack on democracy,” Pelosi said in support of the Biden administration’s approach.
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Many Republicans have criticized Putin as well, although some — including former President Donald Trump — also had harsh words on Biden’s handling of the Russia-Ukraine crisis.
“Putin plays Biden like a drum. It’s not nice to watch!” Trump said Wednesday, just hours before Russia launched a large-scale invasion of a sovereign nation in Ukraine.
In a Wednesday night phone interview with Fox News — with a split screen showing the war in Ukraine — Trump blamed the Biden administration’s “weakness, incompetence, and stupidity.” He also echoed his false allegations of voter fraud in the 2020 elections, falsely claiming that “rigged elections” led to Russian aggression.
Other Republicans kept the focus squarely on Putin.
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Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky, who has repeatedly clashed with Trump over Russian policy, has called for tougher economic sanctions on Putin’s government.
“As he escalates his war against Ukraine, Putin should be forced to pay a much heavier price than he paid for his previous conquests of Georgia and Ukraine,” McConnell said this week.
Representative Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican who wants to be Speaker of the House if Republicans win this year’s congressional elections, called Putin’s invasion “reckless and sinister.” McCarthy did not mention Biden in his statement, saying, “Putin must be held accountable for his actions.”
The Ukraine crisis has revived divisions in the Republican Party and conservatives over what to do about Putin and Russia.
While no one is calling for US military intervention, longstanding hawks such as Senator Lindsey Graham have accused Putin of seeking to revive the Cold War and said the United States needs to counter it with economic sanctions.
“Putin and his associates should be pursued by international law enforcement agencies for the purpose of seizing their luxury apartments, fine art, yachts and other material goods purchased through the robbery of the blind Russian people,” Graham said during the night.
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“It is clear that the Biden administration’s appeasement approach to Russian aggression has failed,” said Representative Mike Johnson, Republican of Los Angeles. Johnson also called for stronger penalties, but questioned how well that would work at this point.
“Although the best time to take these measures is past, we must act decisively,” Johnson said.
Senator Tom Cotton, an Ark Republican, has called on Biden to “finally” impose harsh economic sanctions on the Russian autocrat, who is said to be considering running for president in 2024.
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Democrats stood more closely behind Biden in opposing Russian aggression.
Citing the large number of Ukrainian Americans in her home state of Michigan, Senator Debbie Stabeno, D-Mich., said, “America will stand strong with all of our allies to do everything we can to protect their freedom and independence and save lives.”
Representative Adam Schiff, D-Calif., who chairs the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, noted that the Biden administration has already imposed new sanctions on Russia and that more sanctions are in order.
“It is clear that despite our combined efforts with our allies and Ukraine, Vladimir Putin chose war,” Schiff said.
Schiff called on the United States to stand by Ukraine, saying, “This begins to move quickly beyond the massive sanctions announced by the Biden administration to completely disconnect Russia’s leading financial institutions from the global economy and end Europe’s dependence on Russian oil forever.”