Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 11, 2016

Anger on Capitol Hill Grows as Details on Flight MH17 Emerge

Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, leaves a meeting of the House Republican Caucus in the Capitol, June 10, 2014. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Thornberry said Obama needs to increase the defense budget. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 3:29 p.m. | Members of Congress from both parties and chambers took to the airwaves, to social media and the Internet Friday to express a growing anger over indications of Russian involvement in the missile attack that took down an airliner and all 298 aboard over Ukraine on Thursday.

In an appearance on Fox News, Rep. Mac Thornberry, expected to be the next chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said that President Barack Obama needs to move immediately to increase the U.S. defense budget. The Texas Republican also said Obama should look at how President Ronald Reagan handled a similar incident in the 1980s when Russia shot down a Korean airliner.

“I went back and looked at President Reagan’s statement after the Korean airline downer and I’m struck by the fact that he used very clear language, he called it a massacre, he called it an act of barbarism, he called the Soviets out for not telling the truth,” Thornberry said. “Even more important than what he said was what he did. He took several steps to isolate the Soviets … and he called on Congress to increase the defense budget. That’s what the president needs to do in a few minutes.”

House appropriator Charles Dent, R-Pa., in a statement called the attack one that was “against the World,” and that “America and Europe should speak with one voice and sanction Putin’s Russia for the role it has played in this attack.”

House Foreign Affairs ranking member Eliot L. Engel, D-N.Y., also in an interview on Fox, said the incident will require the U.S. and its allies to rethink attitudes toward Russia.

“Whether they did this intentionally or not, that really does not matter,” he said. “The NATO alliance is being tested, I’ve been saying this for many weeks and many months. The formula of NATO over the past several years has been that Russia is a partner or at least collaborating with us. That is certainly no longer the case. Russia has turned itself into an adversary again.”

And on MSNBC, ex-House Homeland Security chairman Rep. Peter T. King, R-N.Y., criticized the president’s decision on Thursday to go ahead with previously scheduled fundraising events as news of the attack broke.

“We need more leadership from the president. He gave this a passing reference in his speech in Delaware, then went on to tell Joe Biden jokes and take the usual shots at Republicans — which is fair game, but not on this day,” said King, a member of the Homeland Security Committee.

Meanwhile, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., released a statement offering sympathy to the families of the victims, while emphasizing the need for answers.

“We stand determined to find answers about who is responsible,” Pelosi said. “As the President said today, ‘the eyes of the world are on eastern Ukraine,’ and it is clear there must be a credible international investigation into what happened.”
On the other side of the Capitol, Sen. Tim Kaine, in a statement from his office on the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, said Russia’s Vladimir Putin has “shown a complete disregard for the sovereignty of [Ukraine].”

“If investigators confirm it to be true that the separatists engaged in this attack on innocent travelers, I hope that the entire global community, especially European nations, join in a vigorous effort to punish and sanction Russia for its dangerous support to separatists and their illegal behavior,” the Virginia Democrat said in the statement.

Speaking with reporters Thursday afternoon, Sen. Lindsey Graham said the shoot-down of the Boeing 777 is “just what happens when aggression’s uncontrolled. When you’re indifferent or weak in terms of one nation gobbling up another.”

“I just think this is the consequence of a foreign policy where aggressive people are not met and challenged. I’m not blaming the United States for shooting down the airplane. I’m saying that the foreign policy of President Obama is allowing conflicts to grow in scope and nature,” the South Carolina Republican said. “And that the longer these things go, the more people get drawn in, and that’s why Syria represents a direct threat to our homeland. Three years ago, that’s not the case. That’s why the Russian intervention in Crimea has led to a breakup of the Ukraine, and it’s going to effect us in terms of energy prices.”

Sen. Christopher S. Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat, tweeted, “If this plane went down as a consequence of the #Ukraine conflict, then Russia has blood on its hands no matter who fired.”

Lawmakers made their rounds as President Barack Obama appeared in the White House briefing room on Friday to update reporters on developments.

Also on Friday, the administration’s U.N. ambassador, Samantha Powers, told the Security Council that pro-Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine had access to the missile system thought to have been responsible for bringing down the plane. Powers added that investigators can’t rule out the possibility that the rebels had Russian assistance in operating the system.

Emma Dumain and Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report.



Related stories:

Senate Set to Confirm Ambassador to Possible Malaysia Airlines MH17 Crash Investigator (Video) (Updated)

Putin Should Pay if Malaysia Airlines Jet Was Shot Down, McCain Says (Video)

  • Saltporkdoc

    Happens everytime the Democrats take over after a war, defund the military and over fund “give away” social programs. Read real history, not Common Core’s rewrite thereof!
    Training for the second World War used trucks with signs on the side reading “TANK” and machineguns were made of wood while units “drilled with brooms!
    The run up to the first World War saw many in the AEF going overseas without ever handling a firearm and many of the weapons were “borrowed” from the French and British.
    Will we never learn that peace and security requires a force capability in a VERY dangerous world?

    • Samsara

      What wars are you talking about? WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam. Democrats had some role in them, or are you saying my history book got it wrong.

      • Saltporkdoc

        Try paying attention to my post when you reread it. Each of your questions are addressed in the posting. My reference is to those periods AFTER the wars were won, when democrats took over and enjoyed what have euphamistically been called “Peace Dividends”, not their role in the wars themselves. The Democrats have always attacked the military budget to obtain those “Dividends” and set us up to fail to be effective in PREVENTING a next war or even protecting our own borders.

        • Jack Kelly

          WoW, so your saying that Reagan attacking Granada and Panama was uber-manly huh. Or G.W. Bush telling Saddam they would look the other way if he invaded Kuwait but then they invaded Iraq.

          Republicans START unnecessary wars in order to stroke their base of neanderthals. As a Vietnam Combat Veteran I can’t stand more unnecessary wars.

          If you want them, then enlist, sign up your kids, uncles and nephews and nieces and go join in.

          War Mongers are such hate filled people.


    Both political parties have long forgotten about the more than three million unemployed families still without unemployment benefits since late last December. Over the past seven months, these families have fallen deeper and deeper into financial ruin and poverty. Both parties seem to lack the compassion to even care. While the republicans have fought tooth & nail on behalf of their constituent the Koch brothers, they continued to ignore the poor & unemployed. Congress has approved billions of dollars for the Ukraine, but lacks the moral fiber to help our own people in this country. These families are not going away, they are still in desperate need of a retro extension bill to help them recover from this economic catastrophe. Where are the “family values” which the republicans represent themselves as having?

  • James

    Maybe, it’s time the Russian people rethink their leadership. Did I say the word “coup”.

  • Samsara

    Putin stepped in it, now lets twist the screws. What he wants is a war, and our own neo-con class would like to give him one. Birds of a feather.

  • Packard Day

    Much like the RMS Lusitania sinking in 1915, no one today should be greatly surprised when bad things happen to innocent people when they find themselves in war zones. War is like that. It is not a video game. Mix thousands of young angry and frightened men with modern day instruments of human violence and mistakes or misjudgments occur.

    Flight MH17 was a tragedy, but it was certainly no cause for WW III.

  • Robert Price Rifkin

    is time to get mad. Seriously mad. Mad as in, the world has had enough of
    Vladimir Putin. Seriously mad. Sanctions mad. Diplomacy mad. Mad as in, you can
    only go so far before the world comes together with one voice to condemn
    behavior that is actually threatening World War Three.

    has noticed in the last few days that people are finally getting mad. Seriously
    mad. Governments like Australia, a nation that has lost around twenty citizens
    in this disgusting, murderous take down of the commercial Malaysian Airlines
    jet over Ukraine, have indicated that they’re seriously mad. Even President
    Obama, who seems not to get seriously mad over anything these days, seems to be
    on the verge of getting seriously mad. When that happens, the stakes will
    change and everyone will get nervous…seriously nervous.

    should the outcome of all this serious anger be? The fascist dictator Putin
    must be called before the civilized world to answer for the deaths of three
    hundred innocent people. That would be a first step. He should have to explain
    why Russia should not now be the target of sanctions as deep as the ones
    currently imposed on Iran. Will this happen? Or will he continue to ignore
    sanity and statesmanship? I wouldn’t go too far out on a limb on that one.

  • EdWalton

    President Putin’s motives for supporting an elected government
    may not be pure, but no one’s proved the rocket was not fired by Ukraine
    government, President Obama nor any member of Congress has presented a compelling
    reason to support them.

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