Senators urge Biden to ‘impose significant costs’ if Russia invades Ukraine

AP/Patrick Semansky

A bipartisan group of senators is introducing a resolution on Thursday urging President Biden to “impose significant costs” on Russia if it invades Ukraine and doubling down on support for Kyiv.

The resolution — which Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) are expected to try to pass on Thursday — is non-binding, meaning its warnings to Russian President Vladimir Putin would be symbolic.

But senators are eager to send a unified message to Putin amid growing fears that he will invade Ukraine and after a bipartisan group working on a sweeping sanctions package that included Shaheen and Portman hit a wall. The Senate is expected to leave Washington, D.C., as soon as Thursday for a week.

“I don’t think there’s any member that should object to it. … It says we stand with Ukraine and against Russia,” Portman said.

To pass the resolution on Thursday, Portman and Shaheen would need every senator to sign off. Portman pitched the resolution during a closed-door GOP lunch on Wednesday and said afterward that he “would hope that every member would allow us to have a voice vote on it.”

Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), James Risch (R-Idaho) and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) are co-sponsoring the resolution.

Beyond offering support for Ukraine, the resolution “denounces the Russian military buildup of over 150,000 troops on Ukraine’s border” and signals that Biden should impose sanctions if Russia invades Ukraine.

“[The Senate] encourages the President that, should any further invasion or other malign activity to undermine the sovereignty of Ukraine occur by Russia, the United States Government should exhaust all tools at its disposal to impose significant costs on the Russian Federation to restore peace in Europe,” it states.

The rollout of the resolution comes after members of leadership and key committee members released a joint statement this week offering support for Ukraine and warning Putin that he would “pay a severe price” if he escalates his aggression toward Ukraine.

There’s growing concern in Congress that Putin is likely to invade Ukraine. A senior administration official characterized Moscow’s claim that it was withdrawing forces as “false” and said Wednesday evening that Russia has added as many as 7,000 troops at its border with Ukraine.

“We have now confirmed that in the last several days, Russia has increased its troop presence along the Ukrainian border by as many as 7,000 troops, with some arriving as recently as today,” the official told reporters on a call.

But lawmakers have struggled to reach an agreement on a sanctions package that, unlike the resolution and the joint statement, would have slapped penalties on Putin if it had become law.

Risch and Menendez led a bipartisan group that worked for weeks on a potential piece of legislation. But they warned last week that they had hit a wall with disagreements related to secondary sanctions on Russia’s banks, which could have broader impacts across Europe, and what to do about the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.

Risch and Republicans introduced their own bill this week, with the Idaho senator predicting it could garner bipartisan support if Putin invades Ukraine.

“If they invade when we’re out [of town], my bill is going to be very, very popular on both sides,” Risch said.

Tags Bob Menendez Dick Durbin Jeanne Shaheen Jim Risch Joe Biden John Cornyn Rob Portman Robert Menendez Russia Russia-Ukraine conflict Ukraine Vladimir Putin

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