The Senate could take up the Ukraine aid bill this week that the House already passed, allowing lawmakers to avoid controversy and ensure action before they leave for a weeklong recess.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is expected to approve a comprehensive Ukraine aid package Wednesday. The package, led by committee Chairman Robert Menendez and ranking member Bob Corker would include $1 billion in loan guarantees to Ukraine, sanctions against Russia that condemn it for corruption, and reforms to the International Monetary Fund sought by the Obama administration.
The IMF reforms would boost the organization’s capacity to assist countries in crises like what is unfolding in Ukraine. But the reforms are expected to remain a source of controversy with some Republicans, who are wary of the IMF, have concerns about the potential costs, or who want to use the reforms for leverage with the administration on unrelated priorities.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is expected to file cloture immediately following the committee’s passage of the bill Wednesday, in order to bring the bill to the floor. But the consternation over the IMF provision is expected to bog things down and could prevent the chamber from bringing up the bill this week.
With the Senate expected to adjourn Thursday and several members scheduled to visit Ukraine over the recess, many lawmakers feel an increased sense of urgency to act, so the chamber might take up the House-passed bill, which provides $1 billion in loan guarantees before it adjourns, according to a senator involved in the negotiations.
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Facebook "outlined new measures it is taking to combat what it calls 'information operations' that go well beyond the phenomenon known as fake news" on Thursday. Facebook acknowledged that there are governments using its platform as a tool to launch propaganda information campaigns and "manipulate public opinion in other countries. ... Facebook suspended 30,000 accounts in France ahead of last Sunday’s first-round presidential election."
President Trump’s portrayal of an effort to funnel more Medicaid dollars to Puerto Rico as a "bailout" is complicating negotiations over a continuing resolution on the budget. "House Democrats are now requiring such assistance as a condition for supporting the continuing resolution," a position that the GOP leadership is amenable to. it should be included. "But Mr. Trump’s apparent skepticism aligns him with conservative House Republicans inclined to view its request as a bailout, leaving the deal a narrow path to passage in Congress."
Democrats in the House are threatening to shut down the government if Republicans expedite a vote on a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, said Democratic House Whip Steny Hoyer Thursday. Lawmakers have introduced a one-week spending bill to give themselves an extra week to reach a long-term funding deal, which seemed poised to pass easily. However, the White House is pressuring House Republicans to take a vote on their Obamacare replacement Friday to give Trump a legislative victory, though it is still not clear that they have the necessary votes to pass the health care bill. This could go down to the wire.
Members of Congress are eyeing a one-week spending bill which would keep the government open past the Friday night deadline, giving lawmakers an extra week to iron out a long-term deal to fund the government. Without any action, the government would run out of funding starting at midnight Saturday. “I am optimistic that a final funding package will be completed soon," said Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.