Senate committee approves Ukraine aid package, sanctions
(CNN) — The Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday approved a package of loans and aid for Ukraine along with sanctions against Russia for its military intervention in Crimea.
The measure also includes approval of long-delayed reforms at the International Monetary Fund, which are opposed by many Republicans and could complicate final congressional passage of the bill.
The measure, which passed 14 to 3, now needs to be taken up by the full Senate but that is unlikely to happen until after a recess planned next week, according to a Senate Democratic leadership aide.
“Ukraine faces a menacing threat that challenges its very existence. We need to stand with the Ukrainian people to choose their own destiny without Russian interference,” said Sen. Robert Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, the committee chairman.
The aid package includes $1 billion in loan guarantees from the United States as well as $50 million to boost democracy building in Ukraine and $100 million for enhanced security cooperation for Ukraine and some of its neighbors.
It also includes proposed sanctions against individual Ukrainians and Russians responsible for the violence against anti-government protestors in Ukraine and those who have undermined the stability and sovereignty of Ukraine.
In addition, it seeks to help the Ukrainians recover assets allegedly stolen by its ousted President and impose sanctions against Russians responsible for corruption both in Ukraine and in Russia.
“I believe we’re at a defining moment right now. I think the friends and allies we have in the area right now are watching to see if we are going to do those things that are appropriate to ensure that that sovereignty stays in place and I think this bill absolutely meets that test,” said Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, the top Republican on the committee.
Sen. Rand Paul warned Russia ultimately would benefit from Washington’s aid package because Ukraine owes Russia billions.
“Realize that when you give money to Ukraine you’re giving it to Russia. You think you’re sending one signal but I think in an unintended fashion you’re sending the wrong signal,” Paul said.
However, his amendment to cancel the loan guarantees was defeated.
The $315 million price tag of the bill would be offset with unused funds that were approved this year for the State Department and Pentagon.
If adopted by Congress, the IMF language would codify a series of reforms the Obama administration agreed to in 2010 that would shift influence at the IMF towards Brazil, Russia, India and China to better reflect their growing economic influence.
Menendez said approval of the reforms would increase IMF emergency funding for Ukraine by 60 percent. Some Republicans argued the reforms would actually empower Russia as well increase the U.S. financial exposure at the fund.
Corker, who agreed the IMF changes should be included in the bill, said it’s wrong for the United States to have agreed to these reforms but Congress not to have followed through with approving them.
“Especially with this Ukrainian issue, which by the way is a poster child for why you want the IMF to be functioning fully,” Corker said.
A GOP amendment to strip out the IMF provision was defeated.
House Speaker John Boehner on Wednesday urged the Senate to drop the provision and speed the aid to Ukraine.
“This IMF money isn’t necessary for dealing with this Ukraine crisis that we see today and so I think what the Senate ought to do is they ought to take up the House passed loan guarantee package and they could move it today,” Boehner said.
Some Republicans said they hoped to convince House Republicans to go along with the IMF reforms in exchange for delaying new IRS regulations many Republicans oppose.
Those regulations deal with how the IRS determines what is political activity by tax-exempt groups like tea party organizations.
A Senate Democratic leadership aide acknowledged there have been discussions about whether to include the IRS provision in a final package but that a decision had not been made.
The House approved its version of a Ukraine financial aid package last week, but it did not include sanctions. Separately, the House passed a non-binding resolution Tuesday condemning Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine.
The Obama administration has authorized aid to Ukraine and President Barack Obama has opened the door to possible sanctions against Russia.