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Senate Fouls up Bipartisan Bid to Give Aid Package to Ukraine

Image: Senate Fouls up Bipartisan Bid to Give Aid Package to Ukraine Sen. Bob Corker, left, and Sen. Robert Menendez, right, meet with Ukraine Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk at the U.S. Capitol on March 12.

By Elliot Jager   |   Thursday, 13 Mar 2014 06:54 AM

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed a version of a loan guarantee bill for Ukraine that tacked on International Monetary Fund reforms. The bill passed by the Republican-led House simply authorized $1 billion in loan guarantees.

Reconciling the two versions has delayed passage since Congress will not be in session next week, Politico reported.

Republicans contend the IMF reforms will dilute U.S. influence, give Russia more sway, and expose taxpayers to greater risk,  The New York Times reported. The administration has been lobbying for passage of the IMF reforms since 2010 arguing that America's standing in the IMF and the fund's ability to raise money from emerging economic powers is at stake.

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., who voted with the committee majority, pointed out that Russia's increase in voting share at the IMF will be modest, going from 2.5 to 2.7 percent, The Hill reported.

The failure of Congress to pass the loan guarantee legislation — despite bipartisan consensus in both houses and White House support — because of domestic political polarization came as the acting Ukrainian premier, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, was meeting with President Barack Obama at the White House.

That kind of disorder sends a damaging signal about "American leadership and credibility," said Heather Conley, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told The Hill.

Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, joined two other Republicans on the committee in opposing the bill explaining that the inclusion of IMF reforms would make it unlikely it could pass in the House.

"Only the U.S. Senate could bungle this like it has," said Risch.

Rand Paul, R-Ky., opposed the bill on the grounds that the guarantees would accrue to Russia's benefit because of Ukraine's outstanding gas bill with Moscow.

Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said the bill approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee undermined efforts to assist Ukraine and punish Russia.

Separately, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon, R-Calif., said a further problem with the Senate bill was that it offset part of the cost of aid to Ukraine by cutting U.S. military procurement by $157 million.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez, D-N.J., said that despite the failure of Congress to complete action on Ukrainian aid, the committee's approval of the bill sent a positive signal in advance of Secretary of State John Kerry's meeting on Friday in London with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

The Senate bill would also authorize Obama to sanction individual Russians involved in Moscow's intervention in Ukraine, The Hill reported.

Menendez said the bill will be a top priority for the Senate when it comes back into session on March 24 and can be expected to garner significant Republican votes.

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