A bill providing economic assistance to Ukraine and imposing sanctions over Russia’s seizure of Crimea cleared a procedural hurdle in the U.S. Senate on Monday, as backers attempted to win passage of the legislation later this week.
By a vote of 78-17, the Senate laid the groundwork for debating a bill that would back a $1 billion loan guarantee for the government in Kiev, provide $150 million in aid for Ukraine and neighboring countries and require sanctions on Russians and Ukrainians responsible for corruption, human rights abuses or undermining stability in Ukraine.
The measure also includes reforms to the International Monetary Fund that are opposed by many congressional Republicans, which has complicated efforts to pass a Ukraine aid bill.
Lawmakers in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives introduced a bill on Friday that does not include the IMF reforms requested by President Barack Obama’s administration.
If that measure passes the House in its current form and the Democratic-led Senate passes its bill, it could set up a time-consuming partisan showdown.
The Obama administration has been pushing Congress for a year to approve a shift of $63 billion from an IMF crisis fund to its general accounts. Administration officials argue that Washington must make good on a commitment from 2010 and maintain U.S. influence at the international lender, while strengthening an institution that will play a key role in stabilising Ukraine’s economy.
Some Republican lawmakers complain the IMF changes would cost too much at a time of deficits and budget cuts and lessen U.S. influence at the international lender.