US Senate drops IMF reforms from Ukraine aid
US Senate Democrats bowed to Republican demands Tuesday that IMF reforms be removed from their Ukraine aid package, acknowledging it could not pass with the controversial changes intact.
Lawmakers have spent weeks debating assistance to Kiev's new government and sanctions on Moscow over its Crimea aggression.
While there was broad agreement on offering $1 billion in loan guarantees to Ukraine and imposing some sanctions on Russia, it became clear that a bill which also included the International Monetary Fund changes that are strongly opposed by many Republicans would stall in the Republican-led House of Representatives.
"I believe we need to act now, this week," Senate Democrat Robert Menendez, who spearheaded legislation that included Ukraine aid, Russian sanctions and IMF reforms, said on the floor of the chamber.
"So although I also believe that our response to Russia's annexation of Crimea should include IMF reforms -- to strengthen the assistance package for Ukraine and strengthen US global leadership -- I recognize that us being able to move that package this week is unlikely."
While several Republicans joined a united Democratic front Monday to advance the Senate bill with the reforms included, many congressional Republicans, including House Speaker John Boehner, argued that IMF reforms should be left out of the bill because they are not directly connected to the aid.
Many in Congress had complained the gridlock threatened to split a united US voice as events galloped ahead in Eastern Europe, particularly with Russian President Vladimir Putin seizing Crimea.
With pressure building, Republican Senator John McCain said the chamber's top Democrat, Majority Leader Harry Reid, told him he would drop the IMF changes in order to get the bill through Congress.
"The problem was the House, and Harry realized -- and I'm very happy that he did -- that the best thing is to get this thing done immediately."
Reid told reporters he envisaged a new vote on the aid as early as Tuesday or Wednesday.
The House has already passed a measure securing the loan guarantees, and it is considering a new bill with economic aid to Ukraine as well as expanded sanctions on Russian officials.
But it left out the pending International Monetary Fund reforms.
"What the Senate ought to be doing is taking up our bills and just moving them," Boehner told reporters, saying he hoped both chambers would reach "common ground" in order to swiftly help Ukraine.
The shift marks a blow for the White House, which backed the Senate legislation including the IMF reforms.
Several Democrats were split on the issue, including congressman Brad Sherman.
"It is important we adopt bipartisan legislation as quickly as possible, and that we avoid controversial and partisan division," Sherman said.
© 2014 AFP