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POLITICS: PennAve

House Ukraine bill excludes controversial IMF reforms

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House lawmakers on Friday introduced bipartisan legislation to aid Ukraine and levy sanctions against Russia for its invasion and disputed annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region.

But unlike a similar Senate bill, the House version doesn't include controversial International Monetary Fund reforms pushed by the White House and opposed by Republican leaders.

The bill, sponsored by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce and the panel's top Democrat, Rep. Eliot Engel of New York, calls for the promotion of Ukraine's sovereignty while sanctioning those who have "sought to undermine Ukraine's independence and stability."

"Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea and intimidation of Ukraine should be a wakeup call," the California Republican said. "The U.S. and our European friends should be bolstering the sovereignty and independence of Ukraine. That means aiding Ukraine's fledgling democracy, with its May elections looming, and bolstering its economy, including by helping break [Russian President Vladimir] Putin's energy grip over Eastern Europe."

The measure calls on President Obama to sanction individuals within and outside Russia who "wield significant influence over the formulation and implementation of Russian foreign policy."

And it codifies existing White House executive orders that imposed sanctions regarding Russia's occupation of Crimea, including President Obama's most recent executive order that allows for sanctions against broad sectors of the Russian economy.

The bill also requires the Obama administration to scrutinize banks, especially Russian financial institutions, to determine if they're involved "in the plunder of Ukraine’s assets, money laundering, terrorist or proliferation financing, or actively helping to skirt sanctions or helping to annex Crimea."

The bill also calls for a number of support measures for Ukraine, including:

• Encouraging U.S. efforts to "break Russia’s energy grip" over Eastern Europe.

• Increased broadcasts by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Voice of America into eastern Ukraine — including Crimea — and targeted ethnic Russian communities.

• Enhanced security cooperation among NATO states in Central and Eastern Europe through military training and exercises.

• Encouraging the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development to increase investments in Ukraine and cease new investments in Russia.

The committee has scheduled a Tuesday mark-up of the bill.

The House earlier this month passed a bill to provide $1 billion in loan guarantees to Ukraine, though the measure didn't included sanctions.

The Senate, meanwhile, is weighing a $1 billion loan package for Ukraine that also threatens sanctions against Russia.

The measure easily passed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee but could stall in the full Senate over a disagreement on whether to shift $63 billion of U.S. money from an IMF crisis fund to its general accounts.

The Obama administration says the IMF reforms would help free up money for Ukraine. But Republicans worry it could weaken U.S. influence on the international institution.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has suggested he won't take up the Senate bill if it includes the IMF provision.

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Author:

Sean Lengell

Congressional Correspondent
The Washington Examiner