Congress United on Punishing Russia, Divided on How We Got to This Point
"Russian reset has been a total failure; that we have projected weakness in our foreign policy and now in our defense policy with our military budget that the president's proposing," House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said on CNN. "…And I think when you have the world superpower having a foreign policy that, in my opinion, is weak and a defense policy now that shows weakness, I think it invites aggression. I think that it create as vacuum that's filled by these types of actions."
The past chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), said "Putin is putting us to the test."
"Are we going to back up our words with actions or is this going to be a situation like Syria where the president said, this is a red line, the use of chemical arms will -- weapons will not be tolerated, we will do limited airstrikes and then he pulled back on that?" she told CNN. "…Let's see what this administration is willing to do. But I hope that we don't talk a big game and then just play small ball."
The criticism also came from the Senate floor. "This president does not understand Vladimir Putin," Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said on Tuesday. "He does not understand his ambitions. He does not understand that Vladimir Putin is an old KGB colonel bent on restoration of the Soviet, of the Russian Empire."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), however, went back one administration when talking to reporters outside the Democrats' policy luncheon on Wednesday.
"Well, remember, one of our prior presidents said that he looked into his eyes," Reid said when asked about Obama and Putin.
"Now, I wonder if the Republicans who are -- the right wing who are criticizing the president -- do they think that we should be in Iraq mode, maybe? I don't understand what they're saying. I think the cautious direction of the president has been very good," Reid said.
Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) gave a report on Ukraine sanctions legislation in the caucus meeting, but Reid said he didn't know when it would move onto the floor for a vote.
"Senator Corker tried to move forward with an aid package we should be able to get out of here as soon as we can. Whether I can do it next week, I don't know. The weather has really hurt us," Reid said. "…It's my understanding they're going to have legislation on… certain gifts, aid to the Ukrainian government, and let them know that we support their efforts."
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) tied Crimea to an earlier Obama scandal. "It started with Benghazi. When you kill Americans and nobody pays a price, you invite this type of aggression," he tweeted Tuesday. "Putin basically came to the conclusion after Benghazi, Syria, Egypt - everything Obama has been engaged in - he's a weak indecisive leader."
When asked if he agreed with Graham, though, Ryan said, "Oh, I don't know about that."
"Look, first of all, who is to blame for this? Vladimir Putin. I mean, the Russians invaded the sovereignty of the Ukraine," the 2012 vice presidential nominee said. "So let's put the blame where it belongs."