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Ukraine Aid Bill Faces Filibuster Threat

(Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
(Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Democrats expect to face procedural hurdles on a package of assistance to Ukraine that moved out of the Foreign Relations Committee Wednesday afternoon.  

“We need Republican votes to break a filibuster,” Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., said ahead of a Wednesday afternoon markup where the measure was reported 14 to 3. Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, the top Republican on the Foreign Relations panel, said before the markup that he anticipated Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., would move to limit debate on taking up the committee’s language as soon as possible. Corker added that might not lead to votes until after next week’s recess.  

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Robert Menendez, D-N.J., formally unveiled the bill just ahead of the markup. It includes IMF language that Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, said “isn’t necessary for dealing with this Ukraine crisis.” He said the Senate should call up and pass a narrower House bill.  

“Ukraine is confronting a menacing threat challenging its very existence and in their hour of need, we firmly stand with the Ukrainian people to choose their own destiny without Russian interference,” Menendez said in a statement. “President Putin has miscalculated by playing a game of Russian roulette with the international community, but we refuse to blink, and will never accept this violation of international law.”  

A group of senators is set to leave for Ukraine after the Senate completes business Thursday. That group includes Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., who said he planned to offer an amendment on the floor regarding natural gas exports.  

“I will of course be offering this amendment in the full Senate. I expect our bipartisan coalition to pass an amendment that actually helps Ukraine and Eastern Europe escape the grip of Russia,” Barrasso said.  

Speaking at the markup as both a Foreign Relations Committee member and as the chairman of the Defense Appropriations subcommittee, Durbin said he was on board with proposed offsets for International Monetary Fund changes that come from his spending panel’s jurisdiction.  

Pentagon offsets include a recession of $80 million in appropriated funding for the Kiowa Warrior helicopter program, a cut proposed in President Barack Obama’s budget request. There are also several revisions from the State Department and Foreign Operations accounts.  

Those rescissions of unobligated balances drew a sharp rebuke from House Armed Services Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon.  

“Senator Menendez’ bill to fund reforms at the IMF on the backs of our troops is just looney and I will strongly oppose it if it comes to the House,” the California Republican said in a statement. “If the Senate is serious about protecting Ukraine, they should work with the House to pass something that can be adopted quickly by both chambers.”  

Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin offered an amendment during the committee’s markup that would have struck out contentious IMF overhaul language, leading him to oppose the measure.  

“We will not be providing a unified front in a situation where I think we should,” Johnson said.  

Democrats in the Senate, as well as the White House, have pushed for adoption of the IMF changes, which date back to 2010.

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