Menendez reveals Ukraine bill details

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) on Wednesday outlined in an opinion essay the details of his Ukraine aid and Russia sanctions bill. The measure is aimed at addressing Russia's military incursion into Crimea before the region holds a secession vote this weekend. 
 
The bill is to be marked up in committee Wednesday afternoon and, as reported by The Hill, will include reforms to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that President Obama wants. It has been negotiated with Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), the panel's ranking member, and is expected to get at least some GOP support. 
 
“Putin has miscalculated by starting a game of Russian roulette with the international community, but we refuse to blink, and we will never accept this violation of international law,” Mendendez writes in The Washington Post.
 
ADVERTISEMENT
The bill mirrors one passed in the House last week by providing $1 billion in U.S. loan guarantees to Ukraine but goes further by containing language allowing a 2010 restructuring of the IMF to go forward. 
 
It also directs the administration to help Ukraine in recovering assets linked to corrupt activities by former President Viktor Yanukovych, provides $50 million in direct aid for “democracy, governance and civil society assistance” and $100 million for military aide.
 
On the sanctions front, the bill targets “Ukrainians and Russians alike responsible for violence and serious human rights abuses against anti-government protesters and those responsible for undermining the peace, security, stability, sovereignty or territorial integrity of Ukraine” as well as Russians “complicit in or responsible for significant corruption in Ukraine.”
 
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) said Tuesday that the sanctions will include waiver authority to give the administration flexibility in applying them.
 
The Treasury Department has mounted a vigorous campaign for the IMF language and on Tuesday Secretary Jack Lew conducted a conference call with business leaders to drum up support. The Business Roundtable has already weighed in, calling on Congress to approve the IMF reforms in order to bolster the organization. Promoting economic stability through the IMF would be a boon to U.S. exports, the BRT said.
 
Lew on Wednesday pressed for passage of the IMF reform language during a hearing at the Senate Budget Committee.
 
"At a time when the United States is at the forefront of international calls in urging the Fund to play a central and active first responder role in Ukraine, it is imperative we secure passage of IMF legislation now so that the IMF can provide the most effective assistance to Ukraine in this vulnerable moment and we can preserve our influential voice in this indispensable institution," Lew said.
 
Some conservatives oppose the IMF reforms because they involve shifting $63 billion in U.S. contributions from a tightly controlled crisis fund into the IMF’s general pool of money. The reforms also take away the guaranteed right of the U.S. to select one of five IMF executive board members. 
 
It remains unclear if the IMF issue will prevent Congress from enacting a Ukraine bill before it leaves for a recess at the end of the week. 
 
--This post was updated at 10:23 a.m.

More in Blog Briefing Room

Lawmakers seek $2M for US-Israel energy projects

Read more »