Congress Approves Ukraine Aid, Expects Obama Signature This Week

Both chambers passed legislation Thursday but still have work to do before anything lands on the president’s desk.

People hold a huge flag, a combination of a Ukrainian, Crimean and Tatar flags, on Independence Square in Kiev on March 23, 2014.
National Journal
Stacy Kaper
March 27, 2014, 8:44 a.m.

The House and Sen­ate al­most sim­ul­tan­eously passed dif­fer­ent but spir­itu­ally sim­il­ar Ukraine bills Thursday that would co­di­fy sanc­tions pun­ish­ing Rus­sia for its re­cent an­nex­a­tion of Crimea and pro­mote demo­cracy in Ukraine.

Both cham­bers ap­proved their bills by over­whelm­ing mar­gins, and a path for­ward on how to send le­gis­la­tion to the White House this week began to slowly emerge. Law­makers were ini­tially un­sure if they could re­con­cile the dif­fer­ent bills and send one to Pres­id­ent Obama to sign by the end of the week.

The House meas­ure passed 399-19 and sup­ple­ments an­oth­er bill the House passed earli­er this month that would provide $1 bil­lion in loan guar­an­tees to Ukraine.

The Sen­ate, mean­while, agreed on a 98-2 vote to strip its bill of con­tro­ver­sial re­forms to the In­ter­na­tion­al Mon­et­ary Fund that House Re­pub­lic­ans were ex­pec­ted to op­pose. Re­pub­lic­an Sens. Dean Heller and Rand Paul voted against ad­opt­ing the re­vised meas­ure. The Sen­ate bill passed by voice vote and com­bines $1 bil­lion in loan guar­an­tees to Ukraine with sanc­tions meant to pun­ish Rus­si­an Pres­id­ent Vladi­mir Putin.

The White House has lob­bied for the IMF re­forms, which it says could help the IMF boost its as­sist­ance to Ukraine. But the ad­min­is­tra­tion has also ar­gued that send­ing as­sist­ance to Ukraine is es­sen­tial and must hap­pen as soon as pos­sible — ideally be­fore the end of the month — with or without the IMF piece.

The House and Sen­ate agree on the policy points, but they still need to pass the same bill in or­der to get one to Pres­id­ent’s Obama desk and signed in­to law.

The House ad­journed Thursday without com­plet­ing the Ukraine le­gis­la­tion. But a House GOP aide said the cham­ber was still plan­ning to send a bill to the White House this week. It is ex­pec­ted to ap­prove the Sen­ate meas­ure on a voice vote, which could oc­cur even while the House is ad­journed, in a pro forma ses­sion, be­fore the week­end.

A Sen­ate Demo­crat­ic aide also said both cham­bers plan to still get le­gis­la­tion to Obama this week. But noth­ing is cer­tain, and the pos­sib­il­ity of ac­tion slip­ping un­til next week re­mains a dis­tinct pos­sib­il­ity. 

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