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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First, it was Sean Spicer. Then Reince Priebus. Now, presidential adviser Steve Bannon, perhaps the administration's biggest lightning rod for criticism, is out. “White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Steve Bannon have mutually agreed today would be Steve’s last day,” the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said in a statement. “We are grateful for his service and wish him the best.” That's not to say the parting of ways isn't controversial. Bannon says he submitted his resignation on Aug. 7, but earlier today, "the president had told senior aides that he had decided to remove Mr. Bannon."