House sends Ukraine aid, sanctions bill to Obama for signature

WASHINGTON -- A bill to provide assistance to Ukraine and impose sanctions in response to Russia's incursion into Crimea now heads to President Obama after an overwhelming House vote Tuesday ended weeks of congressional wrangling.

The House voted 378 to 34 to agree to changes approved by the Senate last week to boost the interim Ukrainian government and target Russian and former Ukrainian officials for abuses associated with protests against the government of ousted President Viktor Yanukovich.

Consideration of the legislation, initially drafted before Russian annexed the Crimean peninsula, was bogged down by a partisan fight over a provision to reform the International Monetary Fund that the White House sought to have included.

Democrats eventually agreed to drop the proposal, which Republicans said was unrelated to the Ukraine crisis and delaying what should have been an immediate and forceful response by Congress to Russia's aggressive moves.

Tuesday's vote was almost an afterthought despite that prior urgency. After the IMF freed up funds for the Ukrainian government, the House's Republican leaders pushed back a planned voice vote on the final package Friday so that lawmakers could go on record with their support after returning from a brief weekend recess.

"The U.S. House and Senate stand together in backing the Ukrainian people during this hour of need," House Speaker John A. Boehner said in a statement. "I'm pleased the president will be able to sign an aid package that is straightforward and free from unrelated measures."

Congress is also expected soon to pass a proposal favored by House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Ed Royce (R-Fullerton) to boost independent broadcasting in Ukraine to counter pro-Russian propaganda.
On Twitter: @mikememoli

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