U.S. House prepares package for Ukraine aid, Russian sanctions

WASHINGTON -- As Congress weighs imposing sanctions on Russia in response to military action in Crimea, Majority Leader Eric Cantor said Wednesday the House would vote "soon" on an aid package for Ukraine.

Money for Ukraine's embattled government would come in the form of a loan, Republican officials said, tapping into already funded accounts so approval would be easier in the fiscally conservative House. The Senate is working on its own measures to respond to the crisis in the former Soviet republic. President Obama has promised $1 billion in aid for Ukraine.

"The House will be discussing ways that we can help Ukraine's government while putting significant pressure on Russia to stop the flagrant aggression to its neighbor in Ukraine," said Cantor, a Virginia Republican. "The world community should stand united against this invasion. America should be leading and we'll vote soon on legislation to help aid the Ukrainian people."

Senate leaders are considering loan guarantees as well as legislation that would give the Obama administration authority to impose sanctions on the Russian regime. 

Congressional leaders from both parties have largely backed Obama's approach of supporting the Ukrainians while taking punitive action against Russia.

At the same time, GOP opponents of the president continue to criticize Obama's record on foreign policy -- in effect trying to shift blame for the crisis onto the White House. Facing a November election, Republicans are eager to regain their traditional dominance over Democrats on national security issues.

"With regard to Ukraine, steps that have not been taken over the last three or four years frankly allowed Putin to believe that he could do what he's doing," House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said Wednesday. "But given where we are, we're here in a bipartisan way trying to work with the president to strengthen his hand."

Whether Congress would be able to pass an aid package remains uncertain. Such a measure would likely require votes from Democrats and Republicans to overcome possible resistance from hardline budget hawks.


Twitter: @lisamascaroinDC

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