Dems Will Drop Controversial Provision in Ukraine Aid Bill: Cruz, House GOP Claim Victory Over White House

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nev. speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, March 25, 2014, after a Democratic caucus luncheon (AP)

After days of heated debate between Republican and Democratic leaders in Congress, Senate Majority Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Tuesday that he will drop a provision in a Ukraine aid package that would have included reforms to the International Monetary Fund.

“I feel very strongly about IMF reform, we need to get that done and we need to get it done just as quickly as we can,” Reid said. “But this [aid] bill is important. As [Secretary of State] John Kerry said yesterday, he wants both of them, but the main thing is to get the aid now, and I’m following his lead.”

The decision by Senate Democrats to abandon the IMF reforms, which the White House had insisted on, marks a rare victory for Republicans, most notably Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Rand Paul (R-Ky.) Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who opposed the provision, Roll Call reported.

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) admitted earlier that the reforms, which would have granted more power to emerging countries in the IMF and shifted approximately $63 billion from the organization’s crisis fund to its general account, would most likely be dropped in an effort to appease Republican leadership and move the bill forward.

“The House Republican leadership is intransigent about IMF, despite the fact, that IMF, I think, is very important,” Menendez said. “And if that’s the case, and there is no pathway forward, then you know we may very well strip it out.”

The White House had urged Congress to pass the financial aid package with the IMF reforms, arguing that the aforementioned $63 billion could be used to help Ukraine.

But even with the encouragement of the White House, it appears Senate Democrats took Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) when he warned Tuesday that the bill would not pass in its current form. McConnell told Reid that the bill would need to be amended to include a GOP proposal to remove the IMF language.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who also supported dropping the IMF provision, predicted Reid would scrap it.

“He’s going to do that,” McCain said. “I think it’s very important that we do that because the transcendent issue is sending a signal that we are going to help Ukraine as quickly as possible.”

“There are some other things that some of us want, thing like [more exports of] natural gas. … I’m all for those, but we’ve got to get this done,” he added.

The Senate voted 78-17 on Monday to move the bill forward and open debate on its passage. The Senate Foreign Affairs Committee passed a separate Ukraine aid bill on Tuesday, stripping all references to the IMF from the bill.

(H/T: Roll Call)

Follow Becket Adams (@BecketAdams) on Twitter