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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Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In NewYorker.com, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”
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