After a series of delays and the usual partisan bickering, the $1 billion aid package to Ukraine has passed through the House and Senate, leaving just President Obama's signature for it to be official. Obama is expected to sign it.
H.R. 4152 will provide $1 billion in loans to Ukraine and freeze the assets and revoke the visas of individuals found to be complicit in the annexation of Crimea or violence against anti-government protestors who filled Kiev's Independence Square.
The final version of the bill passed the House today by a vote of 378 to 34, a rare show of unity for our politicians. It passed the Senate last week 98 to 2.
"The U.S. House and Senate stand together in backing the Ukrainian people during this hour of need," Speaker of the House John Boehner said in a statement. "We'll now continue our efforts to ensure that [President Obama] utilizes every tool at his disposal -- including re-evaluating security assistance to Ukraine ad NATO allies and expanding America's vast energy supplies -- to undermine Russia's stranglehold on Europe."
One billion dollars seems like a lot of money, but Ukraine actually needs significantly more than that -- $35 billion over the next two years, according to the AP. The International Monetary Fund, the European Union and Japan have pledged about $27 billion over the next two years. At the same time, Russia raised its natural gas prices by 44 percent, blaming an unpaid debt on the increase.
A second bill that also passed the House today by a vote of 399 to 12 will provide up to $10 million in additional funds to Voice of America and Radio Free Europe to counteract the pro-Russian programming in the region.