Last Update 21:59
Monday, 21 October 2019

Congress locked in Ukraine aid bill dispute

AP , Tuesday 25 Mar 2014
Share/Bookmark
Views: 1090
Share/Bookmark
Views: 1090

The Senate and House appear headed for a standoff over competing bills to authorize sanctions on Russia and provide aid to Ukraine, potentially prolonging Congress' inaction over the two weeks since Russian President Vladimir Putin's military intervention in the Crimean peninsula.

The Democratic-controlled Senate advanced its legislation in a 78-17 procedural vote Monday, sparing President Barack Obama an embarrassing setback while he uses his weeklong overseas trip to lobby allies to punish Moscow. But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid seemed in no mood to compromise with Republicans who oppose changes in the bill relating to the International Monetary Fund.

Reid focused his ire on Republican senators who delayed his bill before lawmakers went on a break March 14. He urged them to consider "how their obstruction affects United States' national security as well as the people of Ukraine" and said their delay of any congressional action "sent a dangerous message to Russian leaders."

"Since a few Republicans blocked these important sanctions last work period, Russian lawmakers voted to annex Crimea and Russian forces have taken over Ukrainian military bases," Reid said. "It's impossible to know whether events would have unfolded differently if the United States had responded to Russian aggression with a strong, unified voice."

Full passage of the Senate bill is likely later this week. But members of the Republican-led House of Representatives are preparing to write their own Russia sanctions bill at a meeting of the Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday, supplementing the aid legislation they passed earlier this month. Neither includes any reference to IMF reforms, which House Speaker John Boehner has called unnecessary.

At issue are changes that would increase the power of emerging countries in the IMF and shift some $63 billion from a crisis fund to a general account the lending body can use for economic stabilization operations around the world.

Republicans have long spurned the administration's attempt to ratify the IMF revisions, saying they would increase the exposure of US taxpayers in foreign bailouts. Making the shift now, opponents argue, also would marginally increase Russia's voting power over the fund's finances.

The Obama administration and Democrats counter that unless the US approves the new rules, Washington will lose its influence at the IMF and hamper the body's ability to avert economic meltdowns in places precisely like Ukraine. The US is the only major country that has yet to sign off.

Reid's charge came despite widespread bipartisan support for providing Ukraine with aid and hitting Putin's government with sanctions. Republican congressional aides noted the House has passed different legislation, meaning the Senate bill could not have become law before recess anyhow. They blamed Reid and Democrats for blocking the Senate from taking up the House legislation.

Reid "sounds completely unhinged," fired back Michael Steel, spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, said. "The House has acted, and is continuing to act, in a reasonable and responsible way to give the White House the tools it needs to hold President Putin accountable."

The Senate bill includes a proposal from one of Obama's fiercest critics, Republican Sen. John McCain, enabling the president to impose economic penalties on Russian government officials for corruption even within Russia's own borders. The broadness of the authorization is unprecedented for Russia, even if applying the sanctions would be at Obama's discretion.

With American officials warning Russia could opt to expand farther into Ukraine, McCain urged his colleagues to look beyond the IMF provisions. He stressed the need for Congress to pass the Senate bill quickly.

"If we do not send this message now," McCain said, "Putin will be encouraged to enact further acts of aggression against Crimea and in the region."

Short link:

 

Email
 
Name
 
Comment's
Title
 
Comment
Ahram Online welcomes readers' comments on all issues covered by the site, along with any criticisms and/or corrections. Readers are asked to limit their feedback to a maximum of 1000 characters (roughly 200 words). All comments/criticisms will, however, be subject to the following code
  • We will not publish comments which contain rude or abusive language, libelous statements, slander and personal attacks against any person/s.
  • We will not publish comments which contain racist remarks or any kind of racial or religious incitement against any group of people, in Egypt or outside it.
  • We welcome criticism of our reports and articles but we will not publish personal attacks, slander or fabrications directed against our reporters and contributing writers.
  • We reserve the right to correct, when at all possible, obvious errors in spelling and grammar. However, due to time and staffing constraints such corrections will not be made across the board or on a regular basis.
Latest

© 2010 Ahram Online.