Reid sets up Ukraine vote for Thursday

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) set up a vote on a House Ukraine aid package for Thursday.

“The people of Ukraine are watching,” Reid said Tuesday. “It’s time to send a clear message to [Vladimir] Putin that the U.S. condemns the annexation of Ukraine.”

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The Senate will vote on the House-passed Ukraine bill, H.R. 4152, that provides a $1 billion loan guarantee, but first the Senate will vote on an amendment from Senate Foreign Relations Committee leaders, Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) to add sanctions against Russia to the measure.

The amendment would impose sanctions against anyone deemed by the president to have undermined Ukraine's security or independence, or to have engaged in corruption in Ukraine or Russia. 

The sanctions codify steps already being taken by the Obama administration and expand the criteria for possible targets, while giving the administration the ability to waive sanctions. 

Obama has called for aid to Ukraine since Russian forces centered the Crimean peninsula weeks ago. Russia annexed Crimea last week, making it a part of Russia.

Originally the Senate was going to consider its own version of a bill, S. 2124, which included reforms to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). After Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) refused to allow that measure to come to the House floor, Reid pulled it, saying Democrats would compromise to more quickly send a message to Russia that the United States stood united against Putin’s action.

Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) almost objected to Reid’s unanimous consent request to hold the votes Thursday, saying he wanted votes on at least two Republican amendments — one that would expedite liquid natural gas exports to “relieve the strangle hold” Russia has on Ukraine and European natural gas supplies and another amendment that would provide military aid to Ukraine. 

In the end, Cornyn backed down and Reid vowed that there would be more opportunity in the future to debate and vote on further action against Russia.

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