Schumer requests Senate briefing on Ukraine amid Russia tensions

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is requesting the Biden administration brief senators amid escalating tensions with Russia over its military buildup along the Ukrainian border.

A source familiar with the matter confirmed that Schumer had asked for an all-Senate briefing with the administration for next week, when senators — who are currently dispersed across the country — will return from their current one-week break.

Schumer’s request for administration officials to meet with the Senate comes after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) sent a separate request earlier Monday for a briefing for all House members.

The requests from Democratic leadership come as the Biden administration is rushing to put pressure on Moscow amid growing concerns over a possible Russian military incursion in Ukraine. Russia previously invaded and annexed Ukraine’s Crimean region in 2014, which sparked international sanctions.

The State Department on Sunday night announced that it had ordered the evacuation of family members of U.S. government employees in Ukraine and the Pentagon said on Monday that it is readying up to 8,500 troops to potentially deploy to Eastern Europe.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki indicated earlier Monday that the administration would comply with briefing requests from Congress.

“We have been in close consultation with members in leadership from the beginning,” Psaki told reporters when asked about the request from Pelosi. “I am sure we are working to meet the request and needs of members.”

Top lawmakers have also been speaking with administration officials as the Biden administration has prepared potential next steps.

Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) told CNN on Monday that he had spoken with White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan about acting before a potential Russia incursion and that he was “encouraged” that Biden “is considering doing things immediately.”

“I’m encouraged by what seems to be leaking out of the President’s weekend meetings about what he may be on the verge of doing and we’ve encouraged him to go ahead and do it,” McConnell said.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) is also negotiating with Republicans as they try to get a deal on sanctions legislation. Menendez led Democrats in introducing a bill earlier this month that will slap sanctions on Russia if it invades Ukraine, but some Republicans want to impose some sanctions before that takes place, believing that it could help better deter Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

“We are working as we speak with various Republican colleagues who have their own ideas as to how to deter Putin,” Menendez said during an MSNBC interview late last week, adding that the endgame is to “speak with one voice and send a very clear message that we stand with Ukraine.”