Top Senate Republican advises President Joe Biden ahead of NATO summit

The third-ranking Republican wishes to see Biden "lead from the front."

March 20, 2022, 1:21 PM

As President Joe Biden heads to Brussels this week for an extraordinary NATO summit, Sen. John Barrasso, the third-ranking Senate Republican, said he wants the president to "lead from the front" and laid out certain objectives for him to do so.

"Number one is, he needs to tell NATO that we collectively are going to supply the people of Ukraine things that they know how to use, whether it's drones, planes, missile systems," Barrasso, R-Wyo., told ABC "This Week" anchor George Stephanopoulos in an exclusive interview Sunday.

"Number two, he has to say that he is going to go to Brussels to the eastern front of NATO to show the resolve of NATO, and the United States' commitment as well," he added. "And third, he needs to say to the people of Europe who are really in a tough situation with regard to energy and the dependence that they have on Russian energy, that we are going to increase the exporting of liquified natural gas from America to them."

As the ranking Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Barrasso has been a strong critic of Biden's renewable energy agenda.

Republicans, like Barrasso, are pushing the administration to increase domestic oil production while reducing foreign energy dependency. Biden already banned all Russian oil imports, and Americans are coping with inflation and steep prices at the gas pump.

Earlier on "This Week," Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., dismissed claims that Biden is to blame for rising gas prices at home. But Barrasso said no matter who they blame "Democrats have a very big problem."

"Well, Joe Biden can't hide from the fact that he is the president of high gas prices," Barrasso said. "And they're looking for anyone to blame, whether it's Putin, whether it's Republicans, whether it's energy companies, whether it's COVID. The Democrats have a very big problem with 40-year high inflation, highest gas prices ever."

Democrats, however, have blamed energy companies for price gouging and have pointed out that a barrel of oil now costs what it did before the war -- yet prices remain high.

When asked by Stephanopoulos what more the U.S. should be doing to aid Ukraine, Barrasso accused Biden of being too slow to respond to the crisis so far.

"The president has had to be pushed and pulled to where he is today. It was Congress that brought about sanctions, that brought about the ban on Russian oil, that brought about weapons and all of this big aid package that I voted for a week or two ago, $13 billion," he said.

Meanwhile, a historic Supreme Court hearing is set to start Monday on the first Black woman nominee to the high court.

Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri suggested on Twitter last week that Jackson has a "long record" of letting child porn offenders "off the hook," an assertion Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler gave "Three Pinocchios."

"You met with Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson earlier this week. And you said -- you didn't say -- suggest how you were going to vote, but you said this should not be a process of character assassination. Is that what Senator Hawley was doing?" Stephanopoulos asked.

"I did meet with her. Clearly, very intelligent. We talked about judicial philosophy. I talked about Justice [Antonin] Scalia, that the -- it's the Constitution, a legal document, not a living document. We had a very good meeting," answered Barrasso, who voted against Jackson's confirmation to become a federal judge on the D.C. Court of Appeals last June. "I'm less concerned about her statements than I am about Chuck Schumer's statements. He said she's going to rule with empathy. A judge ought to be making decisions based on the law as written, not the way they feel about it."

Republican colleagues have flagged concerns about Jackson's record as a public defender, and Barrasso said, "that's all going to come out with the hearings" while pledging the process will remain fair, thorough and respectful.

Stephanopoulos pressed Barrasso once more, asking: "But do you think Senator Hawley's attacks were fair?"

"Well, he's going to have his opportunity to question the judge as will all the members of the committee," Barrasso responded. "The last time we had a hearing with [Brett] Kavanaugh, he was accused of being a serial rapist with no evidence whatsoever. So, I think we're going to have a fair process and a respectful process, unlike what the Democrats did to Justice Kavanaugh."