By Julian Pecquet and Russell Berman - 03/05/14 10:12 AM EST
The House could vote as soon as this week on what Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) called a “bailout package” for Ukraine to help its government stand up to a military intervention by Russia.
“The world community should stand united against this invasion,” Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said Wednesday in reference to Russia’s occupation of the Crimean peninsula in Ukraine. “America should be leading, and we’ll vote soon on legislation to help aid the Ukrainian people.”
Boehner criticized President Obama over his handling of Russia over the past four years, and he called on the president to “pick up and his phone and use his pen” to allow more exports of natural gas that would decrease Russian President Vladimir Putin’s influence in the region.
“With regard to Ukraine, the steps that have not been taken over the last three to fours years have, frankly, allowed Putin to believe that he could do what he’s doing without any reaction from us,” Boehner said following a meeting of the House Republican conference. “But given where we are, we’re here in a bipartisan way trying to work with the president to strengthen his hand.”
The House Rules Committee on Wednesday posted a one-page bill that could set up a vote under the suspension of House rules either this week or next week.
The bill doesn't specify a dollar figure for the aid, but Secretary of State John Kerry promised the country's interim government $1 billion in loan guarantees during a visit to Kiev on Tuesday. The bill doesn't address proposed sanctions against Russia, which the Obama administration has accused of invading Ukraine's Crimean peninsula. But House leaders indicated that would be forthcoming.
“The majority leader is working with the committee chairs on a bailout package. He’s also working with them on a bill dealing with sanctions that could strengthen the president’s hands,” Boehner said.
It was initially unclear what impact the legislation would have on the deficit. Cantor said it did not have a score from the Congressional Budget Office, but he also said "it’s important that we offset the expense of the loan guarantee."
The U.S. aid comes as the European Union offered Ukraine a $15 billion aid package on Wednesday — the same amount Russia offered Ukraine to abandon a trade pact with the EU last year. Subsequent protests led to President Viktor Yanukovych's ouster and the current crisis with Russia.
The House Foreign Affairs Committee is holding a hearing with State and Treasury officials on Thursday to determine the next steps, and the panel’s chairman, Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), said Wednesday it was preparing “crippling” sanctions against Russia. The Senate is writing its own Ukraine legislation in cooperation with the administration.
The top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Bob Corker (Tenn.), said Tuesday a committee markup could take place as early as next Tuesday on a bill that could include sanctions on Russia as well as aid to Ukraine.
“Hopefully we will have a markup on this legislation either Tuesday of next week or Thursday,” Corker told CNN. “And, again, it is pretty fluid right now, and I think, again, people want to speak with one voice. We always try to do on any kind of foreign policy issue, and right now things are constructive. There is not really a great deal of pushback. People are floating ideas as to what might work best.”