A bipartisan pair of senators has called on the Biden administration to designate Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism in response to its invasion of Ukraine, saying they would push Congress to pass a bill issuing the designation “whether or not” it had President Joe Biden’s support.
Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal and Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union” on Sunday that the designation should be made either by the President or Congress, with both of them saying Biden must intensify pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin and continue aiding Ukraine amid the ongoing invasion.
“I hope the President will decide to adopt this stance voluntarily and he hasn’t taken it off the table on the state-sponsored terrorism,” said Blumenthal, who represents Connecticut.
Graham, of South Carolina, said he wants the Biden administration to engage with Congress in designating Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism but said Congress is “willing” to advance legislation calling for the designation regardless.
“I’d like to work with (the Biden administration). But whether or not we have to do legislation to make it happen – we’re willing to do. I am urging the administration to act now,” Graham said.
The two senators traveled together in June to Ukraine, where they met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and called on Biden to send more humanitarian aid to the county and issue stronger sanctions in addition to designating Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism.
The US State Department is responsible for designating nations as state sponsors of terrorism. The department defines the designation as a country that has “repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism.” There are only four countries that are currently labeled state sponsors of terrorism by the US: North Korea, Iran, Cuba and Syria.
In July, the Senate passed a nonbinding resolution calling on the State Department to designate Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism. And in April, a senior administration official said department officials were looking at the possibility of labeling Russia a state sponsor of terrorism.
Both senators on Sunday praised House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for making a controversial visit to Taiwan last week and connected American support for the self-governing island to the impact of US aid to Ukraine in combating Russia’s invasion. Blumenthal said, “China is watching what we do in Ukraine” as it considers potential actions in neighboring Taiwan.
“She should have gone, I’m glad she went,” Graham said. “If she hadn’t gone, what would that have sent a signal to the Iranians and to the Russians?”
Upcoming Senate agenda
Though Graham and Blumenthal were split on the benefits of the Inflation Reduction Act, Democrats’ sweeping climate and health care bill that is being debated in the Senate on Sunday, the senators both advocated more bipartisan gun legislation.
The two senators, who both supported the gun safety legislation passed earlier this year, said there were more gun safety overhauls they both want to see passed. They specifically highlighted a proposal to empower judges and law enforcement to restrict gun access to those who may pose a threat to others.