A spokesman for Republican House Speaker John Boehner called Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid “unhinged” on Monday, after Reid charged Republicans may have had a helping hand in emboldening Russia to annex Crimea.
“Since a few Republicans blocked these important sanctions last work period, Russian lawmakers voted to annex Crimea and Russian forces have taken over Ukrainian military bases,” Reid said on the Senate floor Monday. “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 was referring to the stalling of a Ukraine aid package in the Senate, after Republicans objected to a provision that contained reforms to the International Monetary Fund. But House and Senate GOP aides noted the Republican-controlled House had passed similar legislation without the IMF provisions, which Republicans have said is not a necessary attachment to a Ukraine aid bill.
“The Senate Majority Leader sounds completely unhinged,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel told Business Insider in an email. “The House has acted, and is continuing to act, in a reasonable and responsible way to give the White House the tools it needs to hold President Putin accountable.”
The Senate cleared a procedural hurdle and voted by a 78-17 mark to advance the bill, a version that still contains the IMF reforms. But with both Reid and Republicans sticking to their positions, it remains unlikely Congress will come to an agreement on Ukraine aid this week.
“Republicans and Democrats in the House of Representatives passed a broadly bipartisan loan guarantee package for Russia 18 days ago,” said Rory Cooper, a spokesman for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. “Much like nearly 200 other House-passed bills, many bipartisan, many sponsored by Democrats, it is stalled in the Senate. The Senate should act in the same bipartisan manner as the House, put aside politics, work together and pass that bill as soon as possible.”
The Senate returned to Washington on Monday after a week-long recess. Before its recess, Republicans blocked a procedural vote on the bill, citing their opposition to the IMF reforms. That earned them Republicans fiery criticism from fellow GOP Sen. John McCain, who said he was “embarrassed” by the delay.
Many Republicans object to the IMF reforms because they are partly paid for by taking money from accounts used to buy Army and Air Force aircraft and missiles. Republicans also argue the reforms would diminish U.S. influence, since they would let the U.S. shift billions from crisis IMF accounts to its general lending fund. For these reasons, many Republicans have come out in vehement opposition of the provision, arguing it could even empower Russia.
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