Senators Fail To Pass Russia Sanctions, Release Bipartisan Statement Instead

(Photos by Alex Brandon-Pool/Getty Images)

Michael Ginsberg Congressional Correspondent
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After failing to come to an agreement on a sanctions package targeting Russia, Senate leaders released a statement condemning the country’s massive troop build-up at the Ukraine border.

“Should Vladimir Putin further escalate his ongoing assault on Ukraine’s sovereignty, Russia must be made to pay a severe price. We are prepared to fully support the immediate imposition of strong, robust, and effective sanctions on Russia, as well as tough restrictions and controls on exports to Russia, and we will urge our allies and partners in Europe and around the world to join us,” a group of twelve senators, led by Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, said.

The statement signaled Democrats’ and Republicans’ failure to come to an agreement on sanctions, even as Democratic New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez and Republican Idaho Sen. Jim Risch had expressed optimism about such a package. Members on both sides accused their counterparts of partisan posturing in the aftermath of a failed vote to sanction the NordStream 2 natural gas pipeline.

President Joe Biden and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan have both suggested that the executive branch would introduce sanctions in the event of an invasion. (RELATED: Biden Administration Briefs Top Members Of Congress Amid Reports Of Imminent Ukraine Invasion)

Ahead of the statement’s release, Menendez and Risch, the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, exchanged barbs through the media.

“It’s a shame that Senate Republicans have decided to choose partisan posturing instead of working to reach consensus on a comprehensive bipartisan proposal that would demonstrate a united front to deter Putin from re-invading Ukraine,” Menendez told Politico after Risch introduced a sanctions package. “A partisan victory is not worth a message of division from Washington, which only benefits Putin.”

“Everybody around here is talking tough,” the Idaho Republican responded. “This is an opportunity for them.”

The bill introduced by Risch and other Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee sanctions Russian banks, as well as banks that do business with sanctioned Russian institutions, and funds lethal aid to Ukraine. It also funds U.S. military exercises with NATO partners in the region.

The U.S. announced Monday that it would move remaining State Department personal from the Ukrainian capital Kiev to the farther west city Lviv. The U.S. is one of more than a dozen countries to evacuate government personal from Ukraine or urge civilians to evacuate the country.

Western intelligence agencies expect Russia to invade Ukraine by Wednesday, Feb. 16, several news outlets have reported.