Ukraine loans, unemployment aid top to-do list as Congress resumes

WASHINGTON -- The crisis in Crimea tops the agenda when Congress resumes next week, with lawmakers expected to consider measures to sanction Russia and expedite up to $1 billion in loans to the new government in Ukraine.

Senators are set to vote Monday to advance a bipartisan package of sanctions and loans that has run into resistance with some Republicans.

The measure is expected to clear the Senate's 60-vote hurdle to overcome a filibuster, despite objections from some GOP senators to provisions backed by the White House that would also expand loan authority at the International Monetary Fund. House Republicans also oppose using dormant Pentagon funds to pay the costs.

As an alternative to the Senate's approach, the House, which has already approved the loan package, may consider separate legislation to give President Obama authority to impose broader sanctions on Russian individuals involved in the takeover of Ukraine's Crimea region.

Despite divisions within the GOP, Congress is likely to find enough common ground to clear legislation by the end of the week as the U.S. government tries to maintain a unified response to Russian President Vladimir Putin's aggression in the region.

Congress would also like to address domestic issues that are at the forefront of the midterm election.

The Senate is expected to give its attention to a bipartisan agreement to extend unemployment insurance for more than 2 million jobless Americans whose aid was cut off on Dec. 28.

House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) has rejected the Senate measure as unworkable, but pressure will be on Republicans to devise an alternative.

The House will be focused in the weeks ahead on the Republican budget being crafted by Rep. Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, the former vice presidential nominee, which is expected to dramatically reduce federal outlays on Medicare, Medicaid and other safety net programs to balance the budget within the decade.

Absent from the House agenda is any mention of immigration reform, a politically volatile issue that Republicans are increasingly unlikely to consider before the midterm election.

Twitter: @lisamascaroinDC

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