This week: Standoff in Congress threatens Ukraine aid

Congress returns this week with an aid package for Ukraine still up in the air. 

Progress on Ukraine legislation in the Senate was slowed earlier this month when some Republicans opposed the inclusion of a provision that would authorize reforms to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

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House Republican leaders say the IMF provisions are irrelevant to the Ukraine crisis. Others in the GOP have pushed to obtain a commitment from the White House for the delay of contentious rules on tax-exempt groups in exchange for passage of the IMF changes.

The Senate bill easily advanced out of committee on March 12 and is likely to pass the full chamber, but is now facing competition from rival legislation in the House.

On Friday, House Republicans unveiled a Ukraine bill that does not include the IMF language, setting up a confrontation with the Senate that will need to be resolved before the U.S. can provide more help to Ukraine.

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew was slated to testify before the House Financial Services Committee Wednesday, with the IMF likely a major topic of debate. The Obama administration has long pushed to get the IMF authorization passed, which would shift funds at the international body and finalize reforms it agreed to in 2010.

But that testimony is now in doubt, as Lew is slated to have undergo a surgical procedure this week, likely keeping him out of commission until next week.

One day before Lew’s scheduled testimony, the House panel will be discussing the dangers posed by the national debt. A number of budget experts will be on hand to testify, and the committee plans to hold several hearings on the matter in the coming months.

The Senate also is scheduled to take up and likely pass a bipartisan unemployment benefits measure that would restore a program that lapsed nearly three months ago.

Its fate in the House is uncertain, with Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) saying a state trade group representing unemployment insurance directors called the bill “unworkable.”

President Obama heads to Brussels for a U.S.-European Union summit to discuss trade issues with top European Union officials, though the situation in Ukraine is expected to lead the agenda. 

His trip will include a visit to NATO headquarters.

Appropriators will be busy again next week, as they continue to process the funding requests for the federal government.

In the House, appropriators will hear from top Obama officials on funding needs for the Department of Interior, the Food and Drug Administration, the Federal Communications Commission and the Transportation Security Administration, among several other agencies.

The Senate Banking Committee has a light week, with just a subcommittee hearing Wednesday on whether alternative financial products are getting the job done for consumers.