Senate panel passes Ukraine bill

Senate panel passes Ukraine bill
© Lauren Schneiderman

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday approved legislation granting aid to Ukraine and authorizing sanctions on Russia in a 14-3 vote.

Four Republicans voted for the bill despite International Monetary Reform provisions opposed by some conservatives.

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“We need to stand with the Ukrainian people to choose their own destiny without Russian interference,” Chairman Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezOvernight Health Care: House passes 20-week abortion ban | GOP gives ground over ObamaCare fix | Price exit sets off speculation over replacement You want to recall John McCain? Good luck, it will be impossible Poll: Most in NJ want Menendez to resign if found guilty MORE (D-N.J.) said. 

Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerDeficit hawks voice worry over direction of tax plan The Hill Interview: Budget Chair Black sticks around for now Overnight Finance: White House requests B for disaster relief | Ex-Equifax chief grilled over stock sales | House panel approves B for border wall | Tax plan puts swing-state Republicans in tough spot MORE (R-Tenn.), the panel's ranking member, and Sens. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainRubio asks Army to kick out West Point grad with pro-communist posts The VA's woes cannot be pinned on any singular administration Overnight Defense: Mattis offers support for Iran deal | McCain blocks nominees over Afghanistan strategy | Trump, Tillerson spilt raises new questions about N. Korea policy MORE (R-Ariz.), Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeAuthorizing military force is necessary, but insufficient Republicans jockey for position on immigration McCain, Flake warn against 'politically-motivated penalties' for Canadian defense firm MORE (R-Ariz.) and Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonGun proposal picks up GOP support GOP lawmaker to unveil bill banning gun bump stocks Senate Homeland Security chairman backs bump-stock ban after Las Vegas shootings MORE (R-Wis.) joined the panel's Democrats in backing the bill.

“I believe we are at a defining moment right now,” said Corker, who negotiated the final draft. “Our friends and allies in the region are watching.”

It will be difficult, however, for Congress to complete its work on the bill before lawmakers leave for a recess on Friday. 

Legislation passed by the House does not include the IMF provisions, and the pace of action in the Senate will be slowed if conservatives, as expected, refuse to agree to move the bill forward by unanimous consent. 

That means there would be no action by Congress on aid to Ukraine before Sunday, when a referendum in Crimea will be held on whether that region should divorce Ukraine for Russia.

President Obama called for swift action to sure up Ukraine’s economy in the wake of Russia’s military incursion into Crimea. On Wednesday, the White House again called on Congress to act swiftly as it hosted Ukraine Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk.

“We want to see Congress act on it quickly,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said on Wednesday. “I think it's important to get it done absolutely as soon as possible.”

The fight over the IMF provisions concerns reforms to the organization long sought by the administration that would increase voting rights to Brazil, India and China.

Conservatives oppose the change because they say it would reduce U.S. influence in the organization. They also noted it would increase voting rights for Russia, the country the U.S. is seeking to sanction.

“This legislation is supposed to be about assisting Ukraine and punishing Russia, and the IMF measure completely undercuts both of these goals by giving Putin's Russia something it wants,” said Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioOvernight Defense: Tillerson, Trump deny report of rift | Tillerson says he never considered resigning | Trump expresses 'total confidence' in secretary | Rubio asks Army to kick out West Point grad Rubio asks Army to kick out West Point grad with pro-communist posts GOP establishment doubts Bannon’s primary powers MORE (R-Fla.), who missed the vote because he was in Florida for jury duty.

Corker argued that the share increase for Russia is small, going from a 2.5 percent to 2.7 percent stake. 

But it is unclear whether the House will accept that language.

Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew Boehner‘Lone wolf’ characterization of mass murderers is the epitome of white privilege Pelosi urges Ryan to create select committee on gun violence Ex-congressman Michael Grimm formally announces bid for old seat MORE (R-Ohio) urged the Senate to simply pass a bill granting $1 billion in loan guarantees to Ukraine, which the House passed last week. The Senate bill includes that aid in addition to the IMF and sanctions language.

While Corker argued that the $315 million cost of the bill is fully paid for, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) objected to cuts to Army and Air Force procurement that are used to pay for the IMF provisions.

Johnson offered an unsuccessful amendment to strip the IMF language. GOP Sens. Jim RischJames (Jim) Elroy RischRubio won't challenge colleague for Foreign Relations gavel Senate approves Trump's debt deal with Democrats Overnight Cybersecurity: Mueller impanels grand jury in Russia probe | Researcher who helped stop WannaCry attack detained | Audit finds OPM systems still at risk MORE (Idaho), Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulHouse bill set to reignite debate on warrantless surveillance Authorizing military force is necessary, but insufficient GOP feuds with outside group over analysis of tax framework MORE (Ky.) and John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoDems lambaste Trump’s ‘outrageous’ EPA chemical safety pick Overnight Regulation: EPA misses smog rule deadline | Search is on for new HHS chief | ACLU sues over abortion pill restrictions | Justices weigh gerrymandering Price resignation sets off frenzy of speculation over replacement MORE (Wyo.) voted for the amendment and against the final bill.

Paul said he does not support the loan assistance because it would be paid to Russia and Russia’s gas company. 

He offered a separate amendment stripping out both the loan guarantees and IMF provisions but it failed on a voice vote.

Barrasso offered an amendment to expand gas exports to Ukraine but it was ruled outside the jurisdiction of the committee. He vowed to offer it on the Senate floor. 

The bill approved by the panel would freeze assets and deny visas to people involved in the Russian military intervention in Ukraine and in violating that country’s “territorial integrity.”

It would also freeze assets and deny visas to those involved in suppressing Ukrainian protests or who were involved in “significant” corruption.

McCain successfully offered an amendment to broaden the sanctions to apply to corrupt officials throughout Russia.

—This story was updated at 4:53 p.m.