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 Robert MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezMore oversight of America’s international media networks a good idea Pro-Israel organizations should finally seek payback against Iran deal Dems Trump lowers refugee goal to 30,000, he must meet it MORE (D-N.J.) said. 

Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerThe Memo: Romney moves stir worries in Trump World Senate GOP names first female members to Judiciary panel Former US special envoy to anti-ISIS coalition joins Stanford University as lecturer MORE (R-Tenn.), the panel's ranking member, and Sens. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainTrump is right: Walls work on the southern border How news media omissions distort Russia probe narrative ... and shield Democrats Arizona city council halts work on mural honoring John McCain over ‘protocol’ concerns, neighbor complaints MORE (R-Ariz.), Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeThe Hill's Morning Report — Trump eyes wall money options as shutdown hits 21 days Poll: Sanders most popular senator, Flake least CBS News in talks to hire Flake: report MORE (R-Ariz.) and Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonTSA absences raise stakes in shutdown fight The Hill's Morning Report — Washington searches for answers as shutdown hits 24 days GOP senator: 'I would hate to see' Trump declare national emergency over border 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 RubioRubio slams NY Times for 'absurd criticism' of Bolton over Iran Rubio knocks Democrats over meaning of 'compromise': It 'means when 3 or 4 Reps vote with the Dems' Will 2019 be the year we finally stand up to China? 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 BoehnerGOP leaders strip Steve King of committee assignments House Democrats offer measures to censure Steve King Marijuana industry boosts DC lobbying team 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 RischCongress poised to push back at Trump on Saudi Arabia, Syria Senate poised to rebut Trump on Syria Trump's military moves accelerate GOP search for next McCain MORE (Idaho), Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulRand Paul to have hernia surgery in Canada Ron Paul: Remove incentives for illegal immigrants instead of building border wall Congress must take the next steps on federal criminal justice reforms MORE (Ky.) and John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoAction on climate and energy: Beyond partisan talking points Overnight Energy: House votes to reopen Interior, EPA | Dems question EPA over Wheeler confirmation prep | Virginia Dem backs Green New Deal Dems ask why EPA is preparing for Wheeler confirmation during shutdown 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.