President Joe Biden has caught a political break -- for the moment -- thanks to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, the conservative Washington Times reports.
“In a matter of days, Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine accomplished something that has become increasingly rare in Washington’s polarized political climate: uniting Republicans and Democrats,” the paper reports.
Putin’s war has provided Biden and the Democratic Party “an offramp from continuing to receive the bulk of the blame among their Republican counterparts for gasoline prices that are soaring to record levels across the country,” the report states.
Republicans are not praising Biden and they continue to oppose green energy policies, but the rhetoric about gas hikes has been relatively muted for an election year. The newspaper quoted an unlikely source of moderation.
“Critics of Mr. Biden’s energy policies, including efforts to limit domestic fossil fuel productions, will always exist, suggested Sen. James E. Risch. But the Idaho Republican and ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee indicated his criticism moving forward would be targeted toward the Russian leader.
“Admittedly, when you get an upheaval like this, there’s always an uptick [in prices]. This isn’t our fault, this is Vladimir Putin’s fault, and that’s where the wrath should be,” Mr. Risch said. “I’m not speaking for all Republicans … I’m looking at where we are now, and how we’re going to go forward.”
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, facing a tough reelection fight in Alaska, echoed that.
“I’m placing the blame on Putin,” she said. “This is Putin’s war. Putin has chosen this. And he’s chosen as one of his tools — one of his weapons — energy.”
But the Times added this caveat:
“The political calculation will only hold, Republican lawmakers and strategists told The Washington Times this week, if Mr. Biden heeds the mounting bipartisan calls to ban Russian oil imports.
“The U.S. imports nearly 700,000 barrels of oil each day from Russia, amounting to tens of millions of dollars per day flowing to Moscow’s massive energy sector that is helping fund Mr. Putin’s war.
“Despite the bipartisan push to implement an embargo, the White House remains opposed, for now, over concerns that Americans would face further pain at the pump.”
The conservative news outlet even paused its own hostility to Biden long enough to present another side of the argument.
“Many proponents of a Russian oil ban have argued that U.S. energy production could backfill the void and prevent a price hike, but energy market strategists have said otherwise.”
AAA has reported increases of 30% in regular gas prices since the invasion began little more than a week ago.