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Dems remove hurdle to clear passage of Ukraine aid

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 25, 2014 at 5:37 pm •  Published: March 25, 2014
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WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats backed down Tuesday and removed a hurdle blocking passage of legislation to aid Ukraine and sanction Russia for its bold military incursion into Crimea.

With tens of thousands of Russian troops massed on Ukraine's eastern border, Senate Democrats decided it was more important to denounce Russia, codify sanctions against Russian President Vladimir Putin's inner circle and aid Ukraine rather than push right now for International Monetary Fund reforms.

The Senate set a vote on the altered bill for Thursday. The House Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday approved its version of the measure and it appeared Congress could send its first retort to Russia's annexation of the Ukrainian Peninsula before the end of the week.

Democrats wanted the Ukraine legislation to include provisions to enhance the IMF's lending capacity, but Republicans were opposed. And since more than two weeks have passed since Russia's incursion into Crimea, they decided it was important to move quickly to provide $1 billion in loan guarantees to Ukraine and codify sanctions against Putin's inner circle.

Eight Senate Republicans introduced an amendment to the Senate measure to remove the IMF provisions.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he strongly supports IMF reform, but the main thing is to get the aid to Ukraine.

"We have to get IMF reform. But we can't hold up the other," Reid told reporters, adding that the White House was disappointed about removing the IMF language. "As much as I think a majority of the Senate would like to have gotten that done with IMF in it, it was headed to nowhere in the House."

Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he too understood that political reality. In a speech on the Senate floor, Menendez said Democrats and Republicans need to join together to send a message of support to Ukraine and a message of disapproval to Putin.

"We cannot and should not stand for the violations of international norms that were perpetrated on Crimea by Russia. The world is watching and the world's superpower cannot be seen as incapable of rising to Russia's challenge," Menendez said.

The move signaled a retreat for the Democrats and the Obama administration, which had promoted the IMF provisions.

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