Lawmakers from all political stripes called upon President Joe Biden to impose severe new sanctions on Russia following President Vladmir Putin's order to send troops into two separatist regions of eastern Ukraine.
Biden's Democratic allies in Congress asked him to be more clear about America's response. He even suggested that Putin's military actions be called an unambiguous "invasion" by a sovereign U.S. ally.
"If you are familiar with the history of aggressive dictators, it is important to not lose sight of their past. Putin is invading Ukraine. It's over. It's been done before and he will repeat it again if we don't impose complete sanctions," Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn), tweeted Tuesday.
Himes claimed that Putin's rhetorical division over whether his order to send troops into Ukraine's eastern region qualifies as an invasion is a benefit.
Himes said, "He's desperate that there be a confused discussion about this today."
Bipartisanship can be fleeting. Legislators may have only days or weeks to develop a legislative response, before retreating into their partisan corners.
House Intelligence Committee members worked on bipartisan legislation to assess the readiness of the U.S. for support for pro-Ukraine independence fighters. A bipartisan group began to work together on an emergency spending package to aid NATO and Ukraine in fighting Russian aggression.
The White House tried to show that it takes the threats seriously. Biden, Monday , signed an executive order prohibiting new U.S. investments in, trade with, and financing of Donetsk or Luhansk. These are the two regions in Ukraine Putin declared Monday that he would recognize independently.
Biden will announce on Tuesday that he has unilaterally imposed additional sanctions. This includes stopping the Nord Stream 2 gas pipe connecting Russia and Germany. This would be a significant economic blow to Russia and a welcome development for some of Biden’s most vocal GOP critics in Congress.
"I am still hopeful that President Biden would show the backbone which's been lacking all along and we will hit Putin where it matters, by restoring Trump sanctions on Nord Stream 2," Rep. Jim Banks (Republican from Indiana), who recently returned from the Munich Security Conference said Tuesday in a telephone interview.
Banks, a conservative Republican Study Committee chairman and a veteran of Afghanistan war, called Biden’s executive order "very warm" and "misses it."
Capitol Hill was quiet Tuesday with Senate and House members scattered across the country due to Presidents Day recess. However, Putin's provocations caused a frenzy of tweets, text messages and media appearances from lawmakers warning that the U.S. must act or risk being further destabilized and attacked by Russia and other hostile countries.
"If we don't show decisive force in this moment, Putin will increase his aggression," said Rep. Mike Johnson (Republican from Louisiana), a member the GOP leadership team and also serves as the Armed Services panel.
Next week, Washington's lawmakers will return and vow to pass the "sanctions regime of hell" that Sen. Lindsey Graham (R.S.C.) called. Last week, senators refused to agree to, opting instead for a joint statement by congressional leaders and a toothless resolution condemning Russian aggression and supporting Ukraine.
"I would like to pursue Putin and his cronies as much as possible. Graham stated that he would make Putin's life difficult for those who support him. "If we don’t, other bad actors [like China or Iran] will move quickly in other places." Graham spoke to reporters in South Carolina.
"Aggression by China, Iran and Russia all at once is a nightmare scenario."
Graham, the top Republican in the Budget Committee, is a defense hawk and also stated that he has been working with Democrats to create an emergency funding package. This would allow for the creation of a new task force at Justice, State and Treasury, which would target Russian oligarchs.
The senator stated, "I want the task force to go after Putin’s assets personally."
Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) has joined forces with Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio) to create the SUPPORT Act, legislation. This bill will assess how the U.S. can help pro-democracy forces fighting in Ukraine in the event that Russia invades and seizes Kyiv. Lawmakers are ready for a long-term war.
Krishnamoorthi stated that two things are necessary to help Ukraine's friends if Russia invades. The second is to send a clear message to the Russians that the cost of invading Ukraine would be prohibitive.
He said that Russians are mistaken if they think that this Ukrainian misadventure can be successfully ended in a matter weeks or a very short timeframe. "Ukraine is home to 7 million military-age men. I believe that many of them will fight and will have support from friends in the United States and abroad.