US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s remarks to lawmakers was “quite remarkable” and that they’re “grateful” he was thankful for aid.
She acknowledged his repeated calls for the West to enforce a no-fly zone over Ukraine but didn’t elaborate.
“(We’re) grateful that he was grateful to United States for all that we have done and what President Biden has done,” she said. “The call for the no-fly zone, but if you can’t do that, then some other opportunities and identifying with our own challenges to our democracy. I thought it was quite remarkable, but the film was overwhelming with the children and the brutality of the Russians, it’s their war crimes right before our very eyes,” she added, referencing a video he played of attacks in Ukraine.
She said the House of Representatives is working on legislation in the next couple of days, but she did not elaborate and didn’t answer any more questions.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called Zelensky’s address to Congress an “incredibly effective speech” and said “the message to President Biden is that he needs to step up his game.” This largely mirrored reaction from GOP senators after the speech and differed from Democrats who defended Biden’s handling as effective and forward leaning.
GOP Rep. Mike McCaul, a ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, got very emotional about the video that was played during Zelensky’s address, saying, “We need to help Ukraine, give them everything they need to fight this war, and the video we saw was very reminiscent of Nazi Germany. … And history will judge us. What did you do? What did you do when the bombing started? When the maternity hospitals were bombed and the pregnant women were taken out — blood, children, what did you do?”
“History will judge us if we don’t act now and if we don’t act strongly,” McCaul said. “This is not a time for partisan rhetoric; this is a time to unify the nation behind Ukraine against one of the most evil forces we have seen since my father’s war — and that’s World War II, Adolf Hitler.”
Sen. Roy Blunt, a member of GOP leadership, told CNN he is concerned about setting up a no-fly zone.
“I mean, any time you put American pilots and American planes in the sky, with Russian pilots and planes in the sky, you’re really taking a chance that we may engage at a level that I don’t think we’re prepared to,” Blunt said.
Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly also raised concerns about imposing a no-fly zone — and he was skeptical of the idea of transferring aircrafts to Ukraine, suggesting it would not be an effective use of resources. He’s open to more sanctions and providing more defense systems such as surface to air missiles. Kelly, who is up for reelection, also said that Russian President Vladimir Putin is a “war criminal” and said that US President Joe Biden should “absolutely” call him that. “Call it what is,” he said.
Democratic Sen. Mark Warner, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said “much more effective tools” are anti-tanks, anti-aircraft missiles and Stinger missiles.
GOP Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, co-chair of the Congressional Ukraine Caucus who stationed in Kyiv during his time as an FBI agent, supports a limited no-fly zone. He said there are other ways to enforce it besides shooting down planes, such as through technology like electro-magnetic pulse and sonar radar.
“We’ve got to support a humanitarian no-fly zone,” said Fitzpatrick. “Otherwise, the only other outcome is slaughtering innocent people.”
GOP Sen. Rick Scott, a member of leadership, went further on a no-fly zone than most in his party, saying in a statement: “President Biden needs to make a decision TODAY: either give Ukraine access to the planes and anti-aircraft defense systems it needs to defend itself, or enforce a no-fly zone to close Ukrainian skies to Russian attacks.”