While Congress Does Nothing
After the House and Senate fail to reach a deal on legislation to help Ukraine, Congress recessed for a 10-day vacation.
|A police officer escorts a wounded participant of an anti-war rally during clashes with pro-Russian demonstrators|
Blood flowed in Ukraine’s streets Thursday as the threat of a Russian invasion intensified — but after huffing and puffing for weeks, Congress pulled a signature move: It did nothing.
The House and Senate recessed for a 10-day vacation after failing
to reach a deal on legislation helping Ukraine and punishing Russia.
Members are not scheduled to return until March 24.
“A shameful day,” declared Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.),
after blasting his own party for the delay.
Thursday's clash between pro-Russia and pro-Ukranian demonstrators was the worst violence since Ukraine’s
pro-Moscow government fell last month and Russian troops took over the Crimea peninsula.
While Congress failed to act, thousands of Russian troops were on the move, massing along Ukraine’s eastern border — heightening fears of an invasion.
In a sign of the escalating tensions, a young pro-Ukraine protester was stabbed to death in clashes between demonstrators in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk.
Carrying Russian flags and chanting for Russian President Vladimir Putin,
2,000 demonstrators broke through a police cordon to attack 1,000 protesters voicing support for Ukraine’s government.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) called Thursday a "shameful day"
after blasting his own party for Congress's failure to reach a deal.
It was the worst violence since Ukraine’s pro-Moscow government fell last month and Russian troops took over the Crimea peninsula.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned that Russia risks “massive” political and economic consequences if it does not enter into“negotiations that achieve results” to end the crisis.
And Secretary of State Kerry told a Senate committee that a U.S. response
“can get ugly fast” if Russia annexes Crimea.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk has told lawmakers in Washington Wednesday that he did not mind a delay.
Residents of the pro-Russian region will vote Sunday on whether to become part of Russia. President Obama has denounced the referendum as illegitimate.
Yet, despite the deepening crisis, Congress was divided about what to do.
The Republican-controlled House and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, controlled by Democrats, each have passed legislation. But the bills have differences that might prove hard to reconcile, especially as the two bodies bad-mouth each other.
Both measures call for a $1 billion loan guarantee to Ukraine —
but the Senate’s includes potential penalties against Russia and reforms of the International Monetary Fund.
Congress is now on a 10-day-break with nothing passed for legislating to help Ukraine and punish Russia.
“The IMF money has nothing to do with Ukraine,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) fumed.
House Republican leaders are also furious that the Senate would pay for its legislation with money intended for the Pentagon, including $160 million in aircraft, missile and Army procurement.
“To fund reforms at the IMF on the backs of our troops is just loony,” said Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.
Sen. Bob Corker (Tenn.), the top Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, downplayed the failure of Congress to act.
He said that while it would be useful to quickly pass a bill with sanctions, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk — who on Thursday paid a visit to Heartland Brewery in Times Square — had told lawmakers during a visit to Washington Wednesday that he did not mind a delay.
“There was no sense of urgency about whether it happens now, or two weeks from now,” Corker said.