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U.S. Senate Republicans and Democrats have criticized the administration for not acting immediately to help transfer planes to Ukraine, a sign of daylight emerging between Congress and the White House on Ukraine after weeks of unity at the Capitol.
At a Foreign Relations Committee hearing this morning, members from both sides of the aisle asked the administration why the United States was not helping facilitate planes to Ukraine including the Ukrainian president. Volodymyr Zelensky said they were desperately needed. They warned Congress could take new steps to ban Russian energy imports that go beyond what has been passed by the House of Representatives and is backed by President Joe Biden’s administration.
“There’s no telling why we’re standing in the way,” Senator Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat from New Hampshire, told CNN of the US position that it would not be appropriate to send planes to Poland in order to that Poland can transfer its planes to Ukraine.
Over the past few days, members have come to believe that Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken share differing views on how to handle a potential transfer of planes to Poland which would make it easier for Poland to transfer planes directly to Ukraine, a difference that has angered some on Capitol Hill who have come to see the administration itself as a rift.
Sen. Jim Risch, the top Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, told CNN it was an “embarrassing” split.
“The first branch of government is almost unanimous on this. I don’t know who’s against it here, but it’s embarrassing for the second branch of government to be split. It’s a job for the President of the United States. He needs to step up. Strike together and get everyone in one place,” Risch said. “We really have to do this. Its a question of life or death. »
Risch said the Pentagon’s explanation that an aircraft transfer could be seen as an escalation by the Russians is “nonsense.”
“We take their yachts, we take their vacation properties, we give the Ukrainians all the weapons we can give them. It is foolish to say that it will somehow make them worse. This is nonsense,” he said.
GOP Sen. Rob Portman, who has been outspoken on this issue, told CNN he thinks it’s not up to the Biden administration to make decisions for Ukraine on what their strategy should be. military and if they wanted planes, and the United States needed to do everything in its power to help them.
“The administration just told us that they think Ukraine needs other things more and would be more effective on the battlefield. In theory, that means the US government decides what should be military strategy for Ukraine,” Portman said. “Ukraine wants planes. They made a decision.”
Some Democrats, however, argue that Congress should give the administration more leeway to make decisions about how they want to address this conflict without “micromanaging.”
“I generally trust the administration’s decision-making,” Sen. Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat, told CNN. “I think this is a time when we should be behind the administration rather than constantly questioning.”