In a Congress not known for fast action, House members quickly passed legislation Thursday to give Ukraine $1 billion in loan guarantees.
The bill, which passed 385-23 with wide bipartisan support, was introduced Wednesday by House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky., and the committee's ranking member Nita Lowey, D-N.Y.
The legislation would give Ukraine access to loan guarantees from the State Department. The Obama administration pledged to give the country $1 billion to help offset the scale-back of Russian energy subsidies as part of a larger international effort to provide financial support.
Rogers called the bill "an important first step that will allow the country to shore up its finances and begin to make its economy more efficient."
And although members stressed the need to help the Ukrainian government and its fledgling economy during floor speeches, they also said the bill would send a message to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md., said Putin is trying to "relitigate the Cold War" with the occupation in Crimea.
But the legislation didn't tie the loan guarantees to changes to the International Monetary Fund, as the Obama administration and some Democrats wanted.
The president made a White House briefing-room appearance Thursday afternoon to press members of Congress to pass legislation, and "specifically to support the IMF's capacity to lend resources to Ukraine and to provide American assistance for the Ukrainian government so that they can weather this storm and stabilize their economy, [and] make needed reforms."
But House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer suggested that the IMF provision could make a reappearance in the Senate, with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee potentially taking up aid legislation next week.
This article appears in the March 7, 2014 edition of NJ Daily.