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Ukraine aid bill clears hurdle in Senate, sets up vote for later in the week

 

The Senate voted 78-17 to advance a Ukraine aid package Monday sought by the Obama administration, setting up a final vote for later this week. 

The bill ran into heated objections from Senate Republicans ahead of the Monday evening test vote over concerns that the bill could "unnecessarily" jack up U.S. contributions to a major international lender. 

Senate Democrats, and the Obama administration, are insisting that the Ukraine legislation include "reforms" for the International Monetary Fund.

Ahead of the vote, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid sharply attacked Republicans, suggesting because of previous inaction they helped Russia annex Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and he urged the GOP to consider “how their obstruction affects United States’ national security as well as the people of Ukraine.”

He also said any congressional delay in action “sent a dangerous message to Russian leaders.”

"It's impossible to know whether events would have unfolded differently if the United States had responded to Russian aggression with a strong, unified voice,” Reid said.

A statement from Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz' office complained the bill forces lawmakers to make a "false choice" between helping Ukraine and imposing fiscal discipline at home. 

"We are deeply concerned that the Ukraine aid legislation reported by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee contains 'reform' provisions that would unnecessarily double the United States contribution to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), part of the largest proportional increase ever, yet ultimately undermine our influence in that body in a manner that provides no actual relief to Ukraine," Cruz and other GOP senators wrote to Reid, D-Nev. 

Many Republicans support aid for Ukraine, but want the IMF provisions stripped from the bill. The actual impact on U.S. taxpayers is a matter of debate, as the changes call mainly for moving money around -- for the U.S., shifting roughly $63 billion from a crisis fund to a general lending fund. 

Still, the impasse threatens to hold up the package as western leaders scramble to keep Russia's ambitions in check following last week's widely disputed annexation of Crimea. The U.S. Senate is holding a test vote late Monday afternoon, and sponsors are nevertheless optimistic that they can clear the 60-vote threshold necessary to advance the bill. 

The bill would provide for $1 billion in loan guarantees to Ukraine's new government and allow the Obama administration to impose economic penalties on Russian officials responsible for the military intervention or culpable of gross corruption. The administration has already moved ahead with some sanctions on its own. The bill stopped short of going after Russian banks or energy companies as some legislators proposed. 

But even if the bill sponsors succeed in pushing the legislation through the Senate, the IMF provisions remain a sticking point in the House, where Republican leaders opted not to include them in their version of the bill. The House bill also includes loan guarantees only and no sanctions, though House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, R-Calif., has introduced a separate bill addressing sanctions and aid. 

The controversial IMF provisions would expand the lending capacity of the IMF. The U.S. is the only major country that hasn't signed off on a 2010 package of IMF reforms that increases the power of emerging countries in the lending body and shifts money within its accounts so it can deliver more cash to countries in economic peril. 

Some Republicans object to the changes for fear of increasing the exposure of U.S. taxpayers in foreign bailouts managed by the fund. 

The Senate is taking up the Ukraine bill as President Obama meets with allies in the Netherlands, the first stop on a European tour. The Obama administration is trying to work with western allies to present a united front and dissuade Russia's Vladimir Putin from advancing any farther into Ukraine. The U.S. has decried last week's annexation by Russia of the Crimean Peninsula as illegitimate. 

Fox News' Kara Rowland and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

 

Fox News' Kara Rowland and The Associated Press contributed to this report.