Top Democrats and Republicans in Congress scrambled to respond to Russian President’s Vladimir Putin’s Op-Ed in The New York Times on Thursday — and the reviews were less-than-glowing.
Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., was first out of the gate: “I almost wanted to vomit,” Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said on CNN Wednesday evening.
“I worry when someone who came up through the KGB tells us what is in our national interests, and what is not. It really raises the question of how serious the Russian proposal is.”
Putin denied protecting the Syrian government, writing, “it is alarming that military intervention in internal conflicts in foreign countries has become commonplace for the United States.”
During a news conference Thursday, House Speaker John Boehner said, “I was insulted,” when he read Putin’s editorial.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he didn’t think Putin was trying to undermine the president on Syria with his op-ed but was instead “looking for an excuse to show off his Super Bowl ring.”
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., in a tweet, called Putin’s words “an insult”: “Putin’s NYT op-ed is an insult to the intelligence of every American.”
Sen. James M. Inhofe, R-Okla., said in an interview with CNN on Thursday that he too was not a fan of Putin’s piece: “I could hear Reagan turning over in his grave.”
These critical comments by key lawmakers reflect the growing skepticism over the veracity of Russia’s diplomatic proposal, which is spreading on Capitol Hill.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, an opponent of the use of military force in Syria, said on the Senate floor Wednesday, “I would caution all of us – the American people and all of our colleagues – to be skeptical for good reason at this lifeline that Vladimir Putin has now thrown the administration.”
“We have very little reason to believe that Moscow is a reliable diplomatic partner. They are part of the problem in Syria, not part of the solution.”
Congress has decided to postpone voting on the use of force against Syria while President Obama works on a diplomatic solution with Russia. But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid warned Syria and Russia that the U.S. Congress would keep a watchful eye on the negotiation process to see whether the countries are being truthful or not.
“Leaders in Damascus and Moscow should understand that Congress will be watching these negotiations very closely,” the Nevada Democrat said Wednesday. “If there is any indication these are not serious, that it’s a ploy to delay, to obstruct, to divert, then I think we have to again give the president the authority to hold the Assad regime accountable.”