A group of Republican Senators, including Oklahoma’s Jim Inhofe, held a news conference today and said they are united with Democrats behind President Biden in standing against Russian aggression toward Ukraine.
At the same time, they called on the president to be tougher and said it’s imperative that Congress back that up with strong sanctions.
A bipartisan group of Senators — four Democrats and three Republicans— returned from Ukraine Tuesday and had a secure briefing with the president this morning.
The group called it instructive and informative, and said they had as much to say to him as he did to them.
Sen. Inhofe did make the trip to Ukraine, but said he is privy to the information shared in the briefing.
Following the news conference, Sen. Inhofe said the overarching message to his constituents is that, on this issue, it’s critical that he and his GOP colleagues put up a United front.
“We are behind a president that they may disagree with — I’m talking about a lot of people from my state of Oklahoma,” said Sen. Inhofe. “Nonetheless, we are going to show that we have a system of government where we’re all heard and there’s unanimity among Democrats and Republicans in terms of what we will tolerate and what we will not tolerate.”
Sen. Inhofe believes it's still possible to prevent Russia from invading its neighbor and his colleagues agree.
"Make no mistake about it," said Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), "our goal on a bipartisan basis, should be to stop Putin, make him think twice about invading Ukraine."
Democrats last week filibustered Republican-sponsored legislation that would have automatically imposed sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline from Russia to Germany.
They and the president said it would be more effective to use the threat of sanctions as leverage in ongoing diplomatic efforts to get Russia to stand down.
On January 19, several Republicans indicated they were open to compromise on the issue and said talks in the appropriate committees of jurisdiction were under way.
"There will be a sanctions bill," said Inhofe in the interview, "but there has to be a sanctions bill, that makes it very obvious that behind sanctions are demands; demands for freedom, demands for freedom-loving people."
Above all, the Senators said, the U.S. must present a united front with its European allies, who have just as much at stake, if not more.
They said Putin has behaved badly in the past, invading Crimea in 2014, and yet never had his nose bloodied.
"I think the alliance, our friends in NATO and a bipartisan majority, are prepared to assist Ukraine," said Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS), "and make sure that if it happens this time, Vladimir Putin will get a bloody nose."