Washington Lawmakers Head to Ukraine with No Aid Package in Hand
(WASHINGTON) -- Here’s what Congress isn’t sending to Ukraine this week: an aid package for the people of Ukraine.
Over the past few days, Congress has been embroiled in a battle over a proposed package. The House passed a bill last week to provide $1 billion in loan guarantees for Ukraine, and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee then amended that bill Wednesday, adding additional sanctions against Russians and Ukrainians who were responsible for violence in Ukraine as well as those who undermined the sovereignty of the country.
The Senate’s measure also includes asset freezes and visa revocations for certain Russian officials and creates reforms for the International Monetary Fund -- And that’s where the aid package hits a snag.
Republicans oppose tying reforms that would expand the IMF’s lending capacity to the bill. House Speaker John Boehner said Thursday, “The IMF money has nothing to do with Ukraine.” Senate Republicans also want to change a new IRS rule that would curb the political activities of nonprofit groups -- something critics say legalizes the illegal IRS targeting of conservative groups.
Senate Democrats have cried foul. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid even went as far as blaming the Koch brothers, who back a conservative group called Americans for Prosperity, for stalling the package.
And one prominent Republican is lashing out at his colleagues who are holding up the aid package – Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
“Where are our priorities? Is the IMF, whether it’s fixed or not fixed, more important than the lives of thousands of people?” McCain said on the Senate floor Thursday evening.
“You can call yourself Republicans. That’s fine, because that’s your voter registration. Don’t call yourself Reagan Republicans,” McCain said. “Ronald Reagan would never, would never let this kind of aggression go unresponded to by the American people.”
McCain is among the eight lawmakers heading to Ukraine this weekend. The Senate now heads into a weeklong recess with an aid package undone. The Senate does not return to Washington, D.C. until March 24.
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