Press "Enter" to skip to content

Democrats and Republicans Consider Where Their Interests Lie

The public debate over Ukraine has reached a dead end.

Senior Democrats and the Trump administration have struggled with the implications of a Republican-led bill to maintain the United States’ commitment to NATO, which would undermine recent diplomatic efforts between the United States and Ukraine that President Trump himself has said might not survive without an American investment. Both Democrats and Republicans have backed down on some of their harshest legislative proposals and said they’re interested in moving toward another plan.

That plan relies heavily on trying to publicly damage the character of “Ukrainian nationalists,” to use the words of the Republican congressman who drafted the controversial bill, Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Va. But it remains to be seen whether they’ll be able to do that while also building coalitions that could make up the necessary votes.

“This isn’t going to go away,” Mr. Wittman said last week.

But it is clear that Mr. Biden is increasingly looking to take control of the story.

The most prominent version of that message came last week when Mr. Biden, head of the Democratic Party, stepped out against Mr. Wittman’s bill and urged Democrats not to join him in opposing the upcoming NATO summit. “I have great respect for members of Congress who have been standing up for Ukraine,” Mr. Biden told CNBC. “That’s their business. But I think they’ve now kind of lost their voice because they’re supporting a bill that I don’t think will work.”

Mr. Biden framed the fight as a strategic one. The only positive that Congress can do is to finally pass a Ukraine-related bill that’s clearly designed to strengthen the United States’ support for the country and its new president, Petro Poroshenko. He told reporters last week that “it doesn’t make any sense to do something to undermine” the upcoming NATO summit.

Since the episode, most mainstream Democratic lawmakers have pounced on Mr. Biden, with one notable exception. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer has not formally jumped into the debate or outright contradicted Mr. Biden, a New York Democrat. But despite the media and congressional attention Mr. Biden is getting from his comments, Mr. Schumer himself has not gone far to echo those remarks. He did not respond to requests for comment.