Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., on Sunday defended the Biden administration’s response to the standoff between Russia and Ukraine and weighed in on sanctions as a deterrent.
“You sponsored legislation supported by the White House to impose crippling sanctions if Russia invades. Why not impose sanctions now?” ABC’s “This Week” co-anchor Martha Raddatz asked the senator.
“We should take up a bipartisan bill to show resolve and determination. And apply some sanctions now. But the very strongest sanctions, the sort of sanctions we used to bring Iran to the table, is something we should hold out as a deterrent to prevent Putin from taking the last step of invading Ukraine,” Coons said.
Asked about reports that British intelligence believes Russia plans to install a pro-Moscow government in Ukraine, Coons highlighted the Biden administration’s support for Ukraine’s current leadership.
“One of the things that we are doing to show resolve and bipartisan determination is engagement with Zelensky to support him. Twenty members of the Senate and the House Democrats and Republicans spent two hours on a zoom call with the Zelensky on Christmas Eve, and a bipartisan group just went to Kiev to meet with him and Ukraine this past week,” Coon said. “United States and U.K., our intelligence communities, continue calling out in advance, just how aggressive and just how creative Putin intends to be in both overt and covert means to overthrow Ukraine’s independence and sovereignty.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Geneva this week as U.S.-Russia tensions continue to rise over the standoff with Ukraine. While diplomatic talks continue, Biden did concede Wednesday that he believes Russian President Vladimir Putin will advance troops into Ukraine but says Putin “does not want any full-blown war.”
“You’re a member of the Foreign Relations Committee. [The] State Department is preparing to approve the evacuation of some diplomats and families,” Raddatz said, asking how likely how thinks an invasion is.
“Well the most important thing President Biden has been doing is to deter Putin from invading Ukraine. He has pulled together our NATO allies,” Coons said. “In sharp contrast to his predecessor, he’s invested time and effort in rebuilding our European partnerships, our North Atlantic alliance.”
“I think our work in the Senate, and Biden’s work to strengthen deterrence is hopefully what is going to succeed,” he added. “But I am gravely concerned that Putin will show aggression again in Europe and cross the boundary into Ukraine in the coming days or weeks.”
Asked about voting rights, Coons also emphasized the importance of Congress passing national legislation and defended Democrats’ recent efforts, saying, “We’re going to keep trying, keep working at it.”
“This was an important fight to show that sharp contrast between Democrats and Republicans this last week on the floor of the Senate,” he said.
The voting rights legislation was supported by all 50 Democrats in the Senate but ultimately failed to pass as Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., opposed removing the filibuster to pave a path for passage with a simple majority.
“But have you have you really seen evidence of suppression?” Raddatz asked.
“We’ve seen abundant evidence that there are laws being passed that roll back things like ballot drop boxes, drive-through voting, 24-hour early voting. Restricting access to the ballot box who particularly in an ongoing pandemic are medically vulnerable,” Coons responded.
“We made significant progress to make it easier to vote in the pandemic in 2020. Why would we be rolling that back in a dozen states when the pandemic isn’t over? Why would we be erecting new barriers for people to be able to vote? We’ve seen cleverly crafted laws that will do things like automatically remove people from the voting rolls, or make it harder for them to apply for mail-in ballots that I believe are designed to suppress the vote,” he added.
Since the 2020 election 19 states have enacted over 30 laws making it more difficult to vote according to the Brennan Center for Justice. President Joe Biden expressed “disappointment” after the legislation failed on Wednesday and said he will use “every tool at our disposal to stand up for democracy.”
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