After Zelenskyy address, GOP, McCarthy escalate calls for Biden to do more, 'greater armament'

House GOP Leader McCarthy questioned why MiG-29 jets were not provided to Ukraine weeks ago as lawmakers had requested

Published: March 16, 2022 9:47am

Updated: March 16, 2022 11:08am

House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy following Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's direct plea Wednesday morning for more U.S. assistance called on the Biden Administration to provide Ukrainians with the "armament they need" to continue to "fight a war that they did not create" against the Russian army.

McCarthy argued the war video accompanying Zelenskyy's video speech made the argument for more U.S. aid as compelling as the Ukraine president's words.

"It made the case of the murdering of innocent people," McCarthy said in a post-speech news conference. "War crimes are being committed. America and the world cannot sit by and ignore it. We need to put a stop to this."

McCarthy also called for "greater pressure" and "greater armament."

The California Republican questioned why MiG-29 jets were not provided to Ukraine weeks ago as lawmakers had requested. He said the delay has put Ukraine at a "disadvantage." 

McCarthy also said Ukraine can "create a no-fly zone" if the U.S. provides Ukraine with MiG-29 jets.

His concern were echoed by other Republicans including House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, who described Zelenskyy's address as "incredibly powerful."

"People got to see once again what we've been seeing for weeks and that is just why President Zelenskyy is inspiring the people of Ukraine and people all around the world who are rallying around these incredibly strong, tough people during a brutally difficult invasion by Putin," he said. 

In a social media post after the address, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the chamber's top Democrat, wrote that "Congress and the country remain unwavering in our commitment to the people of Ukraine as they courageously defend democracy."

Idaho Sen. Jim Risch, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Zelenskyy is a "courageous leader who is truly grateful for what the United States has done to help Ukraine" so far.

"But I agree with him completely – we have to do more. Congress, and more specifically, the Senate, stands with the Ukrainians. Let’s send them airplanes, let’s send them air defense systems, and let’s do it faster," he said.

"Today’s speech was clearly intended for an audience sitting in the White House, and I hope they were listening. The administration needs to step up and lead. The actions it has taken so far have been positive, but it has had to be shamed into action every step along the way. It is critical the administration stop foot-dragging and do more."

Former Vice President Mike Pence, who visited the border of the Ukraine recently, called for "additional sanctions" to economically isolate Russian leader Vladimir Putin. He also said the U.S. should transfer the MiG jets from Poland.

"The world has been inspired by President Zelenskyy," he said. "Putin must pay for the violence he is visiting upon the people of Ukraine."

Pence said the Obama administration provided blankets and boxed meals for Ukraine but "lethal aid" was provided during the Trump administration. He said the Biden Administration must continue to provide Ukraine with more "lethal aid."

Pence suggested the establishment of a 21st century Berlin airlift. 

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