House offers new Ukraine bill

 

House lawmakers on Friday introduced a new Ukraine aid and Russia sanctions bill that does not contain controversial International Monetary Fund (IMF) reforms opposed by GOP leaders.

The bill will receive a committee vote on Tuesday, setting up likely floor action later in the week.

The new legislation sets up a confrontation with Senate Democrats, who included IMF reforms backed by the White House in their legislation. A bill approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week in a 14-3 vote mirrors the House bill but includes the IMF provisions. 

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Senate Democrats have vowed to pass their version of the bill as soon as the upper chamber returns next week, and they claim to have at least five Republicans on board.
The new House bill is backed by the top Republican and Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, increasing the odds it will move forward.

The fight over the IMF provisions prevented additional progress last week.

The White House argues the reforms would help free up money for Ukraine, but congressional Republicans have opposed the language and argued it would lessen U.S. influence in the institution. 

House Foreign Affairs Committee ranking member Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) praised the bill introduced by Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) in a statement that did not mention the IMF issue.

"This important legislation supplements the president's efforts to impose sanctions on those responsible for violating Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, looting Ukraine's economy, and violating human rights in Ukraine," he said. "It sends a clear message to President Putin and his corrupt cronies that we will not tolerate Russian aggression.

"Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea and intimidation of Ukraine should be a wakeup call," said Royce. "The U.S. and our European friends should be bolstering the sovereignty and independence of Ukraine."

Separately, he said he wants to boost U.S. natural gas exports to weaken Russia's economic hold on the region. 

Some Democrats in the House have called for separating the Ukraine aid and IMF provisions.

Last week, committee member Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) and Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), the ranking member on the House spending panel overseeing State Department spending, said the IMF issues should be separated out from Ukraine aid given the urgency of helping Ukraine.

The House earlier this month passed a bill giving Ukraine $1 billion in loan guarantees.
 
The new House bill adds sanctions on Russian officials and businessmen as well as some direct military and non-military help. President Obama has already claimed broad sanctions power but the bill would require the administration to broaden the criteria for those individuals targeted. 
 
The House bill differs from the Senate version in that it does not provide $100 million in security assistance and instead has $8 million for law enforcement efforts.

The House bill also authorizes a $10 million surge in international broadcasts from Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty to Ukraine and Crimea.
 
— This story was updated at 1:20 p.m.