Congress joins sanctions war against ‘vile thug’ Putin

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Even if they were looking at a two-week break, lawmakers aren’t crediting a magic deal or a skilled negotiator with breaking the deadlock. Instead, they point to a shifting belief that Ukraine can actually win the war, not just fend off the Russians, and that the US ally will need months, if not years, of US help to get there. reach.

In many ways, Thursday’s meeting underscored a shift in Congress’s stance on the conflict, which saw an underpowered Ukrainian military shock the world by driving Russians out of major cities.

After approving nearly $14 billion in military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine last month, Congress has asserted its authority on the political front with legislation that severely restricts the White House’s ability to re-host the Russia in the international community. Within minutes of each other, the two chambers passed legislation revoking normal trade relations with Russia, and a separate bill that bans imports of Russian oil and gas.

“The most imminent threat to our security, I believe, is [China]. But obviously you can’t ignore a guy who has a bunch of tactical nukes and kind of rips off his mask and exposes the kind of criminal he is,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) about Putin. “It’s not just a one-off proposal… It’s going to be a longer term proposal.”

Cornyn, who was intimately involved in the negotiations, helped the Senate pass unanimously on Wednesday night a bill resurrecting a World War II weapons program seen as crucial to defeating Nazi Germany. The proposal, which lasted four years during that war and is known as Lend-Lease, allows the United States to quickly send weapons and other general supplies to Ukraine without additional bureaucratic hurdles.

that the new A measure passed by the upper house unopposed is a sign of lawmakers’ belief that the United States must devote resources to the conflict longer than any of them anticipated. And sending the other two bills to the president’s desk was a significant statement of congressional authority over a Russia sanctions list that, until now, the Biden administration has largely managed on its own.

“It is important to reinforce the measures taken by the administration and to show the rest of the world that we are united around these measures and that we are considering stronger and more permanent measures,” said Sen. Martin Heinrich (DN. M.), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Lawmakers have mostly deferred to the White House implementing sanctions and other punitive measures against Russia — many of which have been taken in coordination with NATO nations and other allies. But members of both parties have urged congressional leaders in recent weeks to force the Biden administration to do more, a difficult prospect in a deeply divided Congress.

While the Ukrainians have demonstrated their will and ability to fight, they have also been greatly supported by the United States and other NATO partners, who have sent billions of dollars in arms and aid humanitarian aid to help repel the Russians and ensure that they do not encroach on NATO territory.

“This sends such a strong united message to our allies and adversaries that we are serious about this, we are serious, we are here to help Ukraine win,” Senator Kevin Cramer (RN.D.) told about Thursday’s votes. “More and more MPs, both left and right, are hearing overwhelming emotional support for Ukraine from their constituents, and they are reacting accordingly.”

Lawmakers were shocked by footage that emerged last weekend showing Ukrainian civilians in mass graves and lying dead in the streets with their hands tied after apparently being tortured, sparking allegations that Putin’s forces are committing crimes of war.

“No nation whose military commits war crimes deserves free trade status with the United States,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. “No despicable thug like Putin deserves to be on equal footing with the rulers of the free world.”

The House approved trade sanctions and the oil embargo last month with overwhelming bipartisan majorities, but the bills languished for three weeks in the upper house as senators opposed the swift passage of the legislation. Senate leaders made only minor changes to the bills passed by the House, and the House quickly reapproved both bills later Thursday with more than 400 votes in favor of each.

Some lawmakers argued it was no longer necessary for Congress to act on the oil ban given that Biden had already done so by executive order last month, but supporters believed it was important to codify the ban. punishment and to give lawmakers a say in the matter — especially after Biden dragged his feet to impose the ban in the first place. The legislation also allows Congress to vote to reimpose the ban if later lawmakers are uncomfortable with an executive branch plan to allow Russian oil purchases again.

“It’s important to recognize that this legislation is not redundant,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who led the effort in the upper house. “It ensures that substantial steps will be taken to ensure that the sanctions remain with some level of reliability.”

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) said it was “a message to our European allies that we stand with them as they attempt to establish an energy environment without Russia.” European nations rely heavily on energy sources from Russia and have been reluctant to impose similar bans on Russian oil and gas, although the bloc signals that this may change as the war escalates.

Both bills have been stalled in the Senate for nearly a month, primarily due to objections from Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who took issue with the general wording of the trade sanctions bill centered on human rights sanctions. Setting up an immediate vote in the Senate requires the consent of all 100 senators, and Schumer did not want to take up valuable speaking time as he pushed to confirm Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court ahead of the recess, with other candidates.

Republicans said Schumer didn’t have his priorities straight.

“Part of that is just having leaders in the Senate who know how to run the floor and are willing to do what it takes to get it done,” said Senate Minority Whip John Thune. “They’ve dithered, wasting time on sub-cabinet appointments for the past few weeks.”

The House has been much more active than the Senate with regard to Ukraine-related legislation. The lower house was weeks ahead of trade sanctions and an oil ban, and it has since advanced several bills aimed at helping Ukraine and further isolating Russia, fueling angst among members of the House who want to see more legislation sent to Biden’s office.

“We are in the middle of a war,” lamented House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Gregory Meeks. “This is serious business. They don’t have time to fall asleep. This shouldn’t happen in times of crisis. We have found ways on the House side to work together.


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