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Policy: Budgets & Deficits

Senate Democrats, heeding GOP objections, strip IMF measure from Ukraine aid bill

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Senate Democrats have backed down from attaching controversial International Monetary Fund reforms to a bill aimed at aiding embattled Ukraine.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., announced Tuesday he has stripped the IMF provision from the Senate bill, even though Democrats, President Obama and some Republicans support it.

Reid said he made the decision to remove the IMF provision to speed passage of the legislation through both the Senate and the House, where Republican leaders said they would not take up a Ukraine aid package that includes the IMF reforms.

The move came hours after House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, signaled he would not take up the Senate bill because of the IMF provision.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., told the Washington Examiner on Tuesday that Reid's move will help the legislation become law much faster.

“It is certainly encouraging, if they are taking out the language and issues of division, that we can all unite together and stand by our allies against what Mr. Putin has done,” Cantor told the Examiner.

Critics of the IMF reforms say they would weaken the status of the United States within the organization by expanding the voting power of emerging nations, in particular Russia.

The Senate is expected to pass a measure this week that would provide $1 billion in loan guarantees to Ukraine, which has had its independence threatened by Russia's takeover of Crimea.

Now that Reid has stripped out the IMF provision, much of the Senate’s bill is similar to a version the House passed earlier this month.

But Cantor told the Examiner that the House and Senate would still have to work out some differences.

Both bills provide authorization for Obama to issue additional sanctions against Russia. The Senate bill includes money in addition to the loan, aimed at helping Ukraine re-establish a functioning government and recover assets stolen during the nation’s recent civil unrest.

The Senate voted to move to debate its Ukraine measure by a wide margin on Monday, with help from many Republicans who support the IMF reforms.

Backers of the reforms say the changes are needed to boost the power of the IMF and enable it to provide more aid to troubled countries like Ukraine. The United States is the only IMF member that has not ratified the proposal.

Some GOP supporters of the IMF reforms said on Tuesday that they welcomed Reid’s move to take the language out of the overall aid package.

“It wasn't going to become law,” Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Affairs panel said, referring to the House opposition. “It was just going to hold the bill up. I strongly support the reforms but I just think we are better off trying to get those done at another time.”

Senate Republicans said Tuesday they would like to amend the Senate bill to include a provision to speed up permits to export natural gas, which could eventually free Ukraine from Russia’s economic grip.

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Susan Ferrechio

Chief Congressional Correspondent
The Washington Examiner