The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved a bill that would provide aid to Ukraine which would need to pass both chambers of Congress to be signed into law before Crimea votes on its independence. The bill calls for reforms to the International Monetary Fund that Republicans oppose, as they take power away from America.
The bill approved by the panel Thursday would send financial aid to Ukraine, secure loan funds for the nation’s defense, and sanction Russia, according to The Hill. As a way to sanction Russia, the bill would allow the United States government to freeze the assets of any individual that participated in the Russian invasion of Crimea and would deny visas into the United States to them, as well as anyone involved in “significant” corruption or oppression of Ukrainian protesters. The Associated Press is calling these sanctions the “most significant… since the end of the Cold War.”
The bill also addresses the structure of the IMF, however, and it is in this language that Democrats find themselves losing Republicans on the bill. The structural reforms would moved $63 billion dollars out of the IMF crisis fund to the general accounts of the fund, which would allow other nations not in crisis to borrow from it. This, according to Republicans in Congress, would weaken the control the United States currently has over that money, which would transfer to other nations on the panel that decides where funding goes, like Russia.
House Speaker John Boehner noted that such reforms are “not necessary” to write a swift bill dealing with the Ukrainian situation. Senator Marco Rubio had stronger language, according to the Hill report: “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.”
While the Senate struggled to craft this bill and pass it in committee, the House of Representatives under Boehner has already fully approved a bill. The House version of the bill has $1 billion in loan guarantees for Ukraine in it but no IMF provisions. While it is unlikely that Congress will pass a united bill by Sunday–in which the rogue state of Crimea is set to vote on calling for its own annexation into Russia–Senator Robert Menendez, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the bill would give Secretary of State John Kerry more leverage going into talks with Russian leaders.