House and Senate approve $1 billion aid package for Ukraine, widespread sanctions
By End the Lie
The House and Senate overwhelmingly passed legislation approving a $1 billion aid package for Ukraine and imposing new sanctions on Russian officials on Thursday.
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This comes a day after President Barack Obama said Russia used “brute force” to intimidate Ukraine and that the West stands united against them.
The Senate approved the legislation by a voice vote on Thursday and the House passed another version with a 399-19 vote.
Both bills will provide $1 billion in loan guarantees to Ukraine and impose sanctions on Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Others that will be targeted by sanctions include “Putin’s close friends and associates, members of his inner circle, government officials, some of the richest men in the country and a major bank,” PBS reports.
Those targeted will freeze assets currently held within U.S. jurisdiction and prohibit Americans from doing business with them.
“This bill is a reality check to [Putin] that the United States will not stand idly by while Russia plays the role of a schoolyard bully,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said during a speech on the Senate floor, according to ABC News.
In a somewhat unusual show of bipartisanship, Reid agreed to drop a part of the legislation that would have increased the lending capacity of the International Monetary Fund after Republicans objected.
The IMF announced a preliminary agreement to give Ukraine up to $18 billion in loans over two years on Thursday.
“This agreement highlights the important role the IMF can play in preventing economic catastrophe,” said Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.). Hoyer urged lawmakers to reconsider the proposed IMF reforms.
Ukraine stands to get up to $27 billion in aid from the U.S., European Union and IMF. The loans will help the country avoid default and will support the nation through the emergency presidential elections scheduled for May.
Russia was going to give Ukraine a $15 billion aid package but pulled the offer after former president Viktor Yanukovych was ousted last month.
“This bill is a first step toward supporting the Ukrainians and our Central and Eastern European partners, and imposing truly significant costs on Moscow,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said in a floor speech, according to The New York Times.
The Times reports that the Senate will also pass a House bill that will authorize the broadcast of Western news programs in Ukraine and the surrounding region.
“I believe we are in a dangerous moment in history with global consequences and the world is watching,” said Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.).
More legislation to come
These bills are only a first step in U.S. efforts to punish Russia for annexing Crimea, according to lawmakers.
More legislation will likely be considered in the coming weeks, including more sanctions, military aid and increased U.S. energy exports to weaken European reliance on Russian natural gas exports, according to Reuters.
Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said that once Ukraine is stabilized there will be an effort to give “some type” of U.S. military assistance to the country.
The U.S. also announced on Thursday that a ban has been imposed that blocks the issuing of licenses for military items to Russia in response to Russian moves in Crimea.
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