POLITICS: PennAve

Senate votes to move ahead with sanctions and aid package for Ukraine

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Politics,Congress,Susan Ferrechio,Senate,Russia,Foreign Aid,PennAve,Foreign Policy,Sanctions,Ukraine,Crimea

The Senate voted Monday to move ahead with a package of loan guarantees for Ukraine that also include reforms to the International Monetary Fund that House Republicans oppose.

The 78-17 vote clears the way for floor debate on the measure, which aims to help free Ukraine from Russia's economic grip by providing $1 billion in loans.

The vote came shortly after leaders of the G-7, including President Obama, moved to oust Russia from their group and said they would not attend the scheduled G-8 summit in Sochi, in response to the Kremlin's takeover of Ukraine's Crimea region.

The Senate’s loan package mirrors a House-passed measure, including authorization for Obama to issue more sanctions against Russia. But the House bill excludes the IMF reforms, which makes the future of the legislation uncertain.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., told the Washington Examiner that he wants the Senate to take up the House version. Many Republicans oppose the IMF reforms because they call for increasing the IMF voting share of some emerging countries, among them Russia. The United States would lose some voting power under the reform plan.

But Senate Democrats say it is vital to green light the IMF reforms, which were developed in 2010 but never ratified by Congress. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez said the changes will strengthen the organization and allow it to provide greater assistance to Ukraine in the wake of Russia's annexation of Crimea.

“It’s the IMF that is leading the effort to stabilize Ukraine’s fragile economy, an essential task if there is to be any chance of reaching a peaceful political solution to the standoff with Russia,” Menendez, D-N.J., said.

Obama has been urging approval from Congress, as the United States is the only country that has not agreed to the reforms.

But there is significant opposition from the right, including the conservative group Heritage Action, which said it would be tracking how Republicans vote on the measure for their legislative scorecard.

A group of 23 Senate Republicans voted with Democrats to move forward on the bill, including Sen. John McCain, of Arizona, who just arrived back from Ukraine.

In addition to the loan package, the measure would authorize $100 million for “enhanced security cooperation” for Ukraine and neighboring countries in Central and Eastern Europe, aid for recovering stolen assets and an additional $50 million to help Kiev re-establish a functioning government.

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