House Republicans plan to move quickly — and apparently with no concern for the price tag — to approve a loan guarantee program for the new Ukrainian government.
House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and Majority Leader Eric I. Cantor (R-Va.) said they support moving expeditiously to approve a $1 billion loan guarantee package for Ukraine's new anti-Russian government, which is seeking to stave off recent advances by the Russian military at the direction of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"The world community should stand united against this invasion, America should be leading and we'll vote soon on legislation to help aid the Ukrainian people," Cantor said.
Critically, Cantor said he hoped that the House would approve the package with no concern for its price. That's notable because conservative GOP lawmakers usually insist that new spending bills include proposals to offset the costs. But Cantor said that legislation already written to authorize the loans wouldn't include a spending offset.
"It is important that we offset the expense of a loan guarantee but we hopefully will be moving forward to give the administration the necessary tools it needs to tell Mr. Putin to stand down," he said.
Senior House and Senate lawmakers have spent the past several days working on details of the loan guarantee program. It remains unclear which chamber will act first, but the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is expected to approve the measure next week. In advance of congressional approval, Secretary of State John F. Kerry visited Kiev on Tuesday and announced plans for the $1 billion aid package during meetings with Ukrainian officials.
Even as he expressed support for the loan package Wednesday, Boehner criticized President Obama for not doing more to avoid the crisis, saying the administration could have taken steps in recent years to approve more applications to export American petroleum to Europe, which is dependent on Russia for most of its energy. As a result, Putin enjoys considerable "leverage" over Eastern Europe and Europe, Boehner said.
"If the president wanted to strengthen his hand and help protect our allies in the region, he'd pick up his phone and use his pen and have the Energy Department approve these applications" for oil exports, Boehner said.
The reference to Obama's phone and pen is a play on the president's vow earlier this year to make wider use of his "pen and phone" to take executive action and rally interest groups in support of those actions to subvert Congress, which he complains had blocked several of his legislative priorities.