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.

“We need to stand with the Ukrainian people to choose their own destiny without Russian interference,” Chairman Robert MenendezRobert MenendezCorruption trial could roil NJ Senate race Steve Mnuchin, foreclosure king, now runs your US Treasury Senate Dems move to nix Trump's deportation order MORE (D-N.J.) said. 

Sen. Bob CorkerBob CorkerGOP lawmaker: Time to work with Dems on healthcare GOP senator: I'm ready to work with Trump, Dems on healthcare Senators introduce new Iran sanctions MORE (R-Tenn.), the panel's ranking member, and Sens. John McCainJohn McCainDemocrats step up calls that Russian hack was act of war McCain: Trump admin must fill State Dept. jobs McCain says he hasn't met with Trump since inauguration MORE (R-Ariz.), Jeff FlakeJeff FlakeOvernight Regulation: Senate moves to strike Obama-era internet privacy rules Overnight Tech: Senate votes to eliminate Obama internet privacy rules | FCC chief wants to stay out of 'political debate' on fake news | Wikileaks reveals new CIA docs Senate votes to block internet privacy regulations MORE (R-Ariz.) and Ron JohnsonRon JohnsonLawmakers share photos of their dogs in honor of National Puppy Day GOP targets Baldwin over Wisconsin VA scandal The Hill's Whip List: 36 GOP no votes on ObamaCare repeal plan 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 RubioSenators introduce new Iran sanctions Senate intel panel has not seen Nunes surveillance documents: lawmakers With no emerging leaders, no clear message, Democrats flounder 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 BoehnerTrump, GOP fumble chance to govern ObamaCare gets new lease on life Ryan picks party over country by pushing healthcare bill 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 RischJim RischA guide to the committees: Senate Ryan tries to save tax plan Senate GOP votes to silence Warren after speech against Sessions MORE (Idaho), Rand PaulRand PaulTrump, GOP fumble chance to govern GOP senators pitch alternatives after House pulls ObamaCare repeal bill Rand Paul takes victory lap on GOP health bill MORE (Ky.) and John BarrassoJohn BarrassoHow 'Big Pharma' stifles pharmaceutical innovation Making water infrastructure a priority Overnight Energy: Trump's Keystone XL approval coming soon 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.