Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Thursday held firm in opposing Senate efforts to link aid to Ukraine to approval of a restructuring of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
“The House has acted on a loan guarantee package with strong bipartisan support. The Senate should pass this bill and send it to the president’s desk before leaving for the district work period,” Boehner told reporters.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday approved a Ukraine bill with IMF provisions in a bipartisan 14-3 vote. The bill will not receive a floor vote in the Senate until after next week’s recess.
While the committee's bill is expected to win enough GOP votes to pass, Boehner noted at this time only the House has acted on a Ukraine bill.
"There is no Senate bill. … Let’s make sure we all understand something. The IMF money has nothing to do with Ukraine. I understand the administration wants the IMF money, but it has nothing at all to do with Ukraine. So let’s just all understand what the facts are,” he said.
Boehner met with Ukraine Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk on Thursday morning without an enacted bill in hand. On Sunday, the Ukrainian region of Crimea is expected to vote to leave Ukraine and join Russia, further escalating the crisis.
Treasury Secretary Jack Lew tried to get the IMF language into the 2014 omnibus spending bill but failed after Republicans tried to trade it for a delay in IRS regulations on tax-exempt 501(c)(4) groups.
Republicans charge that the Internal Revenue Service regulations are part of an effort to target conservatives and do not want to give Lew what he is seeking without getting a delay in return.
On the substance, conservatives argue the IMF reform weakens U.S. influence in the organization by shifting money to from a tightly controlled crisis fund to a general pool of money and by making the executive board an elected body. The Senate bill pays for $315 million in costs associated with the IMF reform partly by cutting defense procurement. That is a problem for GOP defense hawks.
Both the House and Senate committee bills provide $1 billion in loan guarantees to Ukraine. The Senate bill adds sanctions closely mirroring what the Obama administration has already said it had the power to impose on individuals involved in the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Secretary of State John Kerry told a Senate committee on Thursday that action on the IMF is needed because the U.S. is the only member nation that has not ratified the changes.
“We are inadvertently hurting ourselves," he said.
The administration argues that the IMF reforms will directly increase loans to Ukraine and in general will make developing nations more willing to accept IMF loan conditions that will stabilize their economies. Such stability is good for U.S. exports, the administration says.
At the hearing, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said he will join the four Republicans who have already voted for the Ukraine bill in committee. Five Republicans will be enough to break a filibuster.
Graham admonished his fellow Republicans for putting up roadblocks to getting the Ukraine bill to Obama this week.
“The Congress needs to do some self-evaluation," he said.