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Most Central Pennsylvania congressional reps condemn Ukraine attack; some criticize Biden administration

Republicans and Democrats are both blasting Russia's military strikes, but the GOP is using the moment to criticize President Joe Biden.

  • Sam Dunklau
  • Gabriela Martínez
Smoke rise from an air defence base in the aftermath of an apparent Russian strike in Mariupol, Ukraine, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022. Russian troops have launched their anticipated attack on Ukraine. Big explosions were heard before dawn in Kyiv, Kharkiv and Odesa as world leaders decried the start of Russian invasion that could cause massive casualties and topple Ukraine's democratically elected government. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

Smoke rise from an air defence base in the aftermath of an apparent Russian strike in Mariupol, Ukraine, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022. Russian troops have launched their anticipated attack on Ukraine. Big explosions were heard before dawn in Kyiv, Kharkiv and Odesa as world leaders decried the start of Russian invasion that could cause massive casualties and topple Ukraine's democratically elected government. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

(Harrisburg) – Russian troops have reportedly moved into Ukraine from the country’s north, east and west in what Russian President Vladimir Putin said is a bid to “demilitarize” the nation of more than 44 million people. Areas across Ukraine, including some near the country’s capital city of Kyiv, have been attacked.

Members of Central Pennsylvania’s Congressional delegation are joining others in condemning the attack.

Most have urged President Joe Biden and NATO countries to retaliate against Russia. Some have offered shows of solidarity with Ukraine, while others argued for the need to reduce the western world’s reliance on Russia for natural resources.

Biden announced additional sanctions against Russian financial institutions and imports of things like semiconductors during a Thursday news conference. He vowed to defend NATO countries with the “full force” of U.S. military power, but repeated that U.S. troops will not fight in Ukraine. 

Here’s what Central Pa.’s members of Congress are saying about the crisis:

4th District

Democratic U.S. Rep. Madeleine Dean tweeted for Putin to be held accountable for pushing into Ukraine despite months of diplomatic negotiations between Russia and NATO countries. She offered “prayers” for the Ukrainian people, who she argues are enduring an existential attack.

6th District

Democratic Congresswoman Chrissy Houlahan tweeted Putin’s action would not go unpunished, adding in a separate statement that if the U.S. and NATO fail to act, it would communicate to dictators that the West’s allies are unimportant and its values are negotiable.

“They are watching what we do here,” Houlahan wrote in a statement. “Doing nothing now will increase the likelihood that our military has to get engaged to keep America safe — something we, and our allies around the world, deeply want to avoid.”

Houlahan is a former captain in the U.S. Air Force and worked in ballistic defense at the end of the Cold War. She went to Ukraine as part of a bipartisan congressional delegation in late January and was calling for a “unified response” that would include sanctions, humanitarian aid and military support to Ukraine.

9th District

Republican Congressman Dan Meuser said in an interview the U.S. should do “what it has to do” to prevent the Ukrainian conflict from spreading into other countries or regions. 

Meuser said the Biden administration should not have taken troop deployments “off the table,” but added neither he nor his colleagues want to see American service members deployed into the conflict. 

“We can’t allow, in 2022, a stronger militarized country to take over for no reason a weaker, militarized country. If you think that that’s ok, then it’s a free-for-all,” he said.

Russia has now taken the largest military action in Europe since World War II, something Meuser argues should have been more strongly deterred in Biden’s first year in office. Satellites detected Russian troop buildup along Ukraine’s borders as early as November.

“We need to work with the Ukrainians. We need to have the highest level of sanctions now and we needed to implement them before they went in,” Meuser added.

When asked if he thought former President Donald Trump should have fostered close ties with Putin while Russia was launching cyber attacks against the West, Meuser said Russia did not try to invade Ukraine despite Putin’s long-held ambitions to bring the country back under Russian influence. 

“I don’t want to just defend President Trump, but the fact is it [Russia] didn’t,” he said.

Trump was impeached by the U.S. House in December 2019 for attempting to pressure Ukraine to dig up damaging information about his rival in the presidential campaign, Joe Biden.

10th District

York County Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Perry characterized Putin’s actions as “expansionist tyranny,” and claimed Russia was partly motivated to launch an offensive against Ukraine because it sees a “weak and incompotent POTUS.” 

Biden held diplomatic talks with Putin aimed at de-escalating the possibility of war in Ukraine for months, but the two increasingly called one another “aggressors” as those talks went on. The first-term Democrat sought to expose Russia’s military plans at every turn in the hopes of deterring Putin.

Perry criticized former Secretary of State John Kerry for not doing enough to prevent the 2014 annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea. Russia recognized that area as an independent state not long after it invaded, and did so for two other areas held by pro-Russian rebels earlier this week.

The midstate Republican suggested the U.S. should restart construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline in a bid to replace Russian oil exports to Europe and the U.S. Biden canceled the pipeline project when he took office over concerns about climate change. The president discouraged American oil companies from “exploit[ing] this moment to hike their prices” in his Thursday afternoon address.

11th District

Lancaster County Republican Congressman Lloyd Smucker called Putin’s military offensive “depraved,” and called on western countries to combat “needless aggression.” 

12th District 

Snyder County Republican U.S. Rep. Fred Keller is calling on the Biden administration to focus on developing infrastructure for extracting and exporting natural gas to help Ukraine decrease dependency on Russia.

“He must expedite approval of U.S. energy infrastructure, including pipelines & liquified natural gas export facilities, & allow the U.S. to be the lowest-cost provider of clean energy at home  and abroad,” Keller tweeted.

13th District

Republican Congressman John Joyce echoed Rep. Keller’s remarks.

“The world is watching us right now, and now’s the time to step up and provide those necessary energy supplies throughout the world. Those energy sources are under the feet of Americans,” he said.

He also voiced concerns on how the conflict could have ripple effects in various sectors of the world economy.

“We’re going to see energy production being affected, we’re going to see global supply chains being affected by this military aggression by Russia. It endangers jobs here in America. It endangers our economy and it endangers the economy worldwide,“ Joyce said in an interview.

He says the United States must act swiftly to impose the most severe sanctions on the Russian government and oligarchs. 

U.S. Senators

Both of Pennsylvania’s U.S. senators condemned Russia’s military offensive on Thursday. Sen. Bob Casey Jr. tweeted that Putin bears responsibility for the violence that’s broken out across Ukraine.

Sen. Pat Toomey offered “prayers” for Ukraine’s people and urged the Biden administration to retaliate against Russia.

“President Biden must immediately impose the strongest sanctions possible…to cripple Russia’s financial sector and make Putin regret his terrible decision,” Toomey tweeted.

Pa. Republican lawmakers and the U.S. Capitol attack

As part of WITF’s commitment to standing with facts, and because the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol was an attempt to overthrow representative democracy in America, we are marking elected officials’ connections to the insurrection. Read more about this commitment.

U.S. Reps. Meuser (R, PA-9), Perry (R, PA-10), Smucker (R, PA-11), Keller (R, PA-12) and Joyce (R, PA-13) are among the 146 members of Congress who voted to overturn Pennsylvania’s certified 2020 election result, despite no evidence that would call it into question.

To see the complete list of Pa. elected officials who took actions to sustain or amplify the election-fraud lie, click here.

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