WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is considering dropping demands for controversial reforms to the International Monetary Fund that threatened to hold up an aid package for Ukraine, a senior Senate aide confirmed with ABC News today.
While the reversal is being discussed as an option, the source stressed Reid has not made a final decision.
The IMF provisions in the measure have proven to be extremely controversial among Republicans because they would increase appropriations for the U.S. to the IMF.
Earlier today, House Speaker John Boehner said the IMF reforms are unrelated to the Ukraine aid package and called on the Senate to pass a clean bill.
Boehner today also urged President Obama to increase U.S. natural gas exports not only to hit back at Russian President Vladimir Putin, but also to help spur job growth in America.
“I hope he uses this as an opportunity to discuss how we can help the Europeans reduce their dependence on Vladimir Putin,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said during a news conference today at the Capitol. “Expediting the approval of U.S. natural gas exports would send a clear signal that Russia’s energy stranglehold on Europe will not continue, and just as important, it would create more American jobs and help more Americans as they face the squeeze of not enough jobs and not enough increase in wages.”
Selling gas to Ukraine would require a change in regulations because the U.S. has long restricted the export of its energy supply. But a boom in natural gas production on the U.S. has prompted many in the industry to ask that the restrictions be relaxed.
Boehner said that the House’s next resolution would place sanctions on Putin, who sanctioned Boehner last week, while House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said the House will explore more ways to assist Ukraine and hold Russia accountable “for its unlawful aggression towards a sovereign nation.”
Boehner spoke while Obama was visiting with key allies in Europe to build support for a unified international diplomatic response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.
Senate Democrats are expected to pass their own legislation to address loan guarantees for Ukraine as soon as this week. Until the latest developments, the bill had been expected to include the IMF provisions
Reid’s actions came after Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s spokesman Drew Hammill said House Democrats “are unified” in supporting the IMF reforms because they are “an important component of the aid package for Ukraine.”
Later today, Boehner is meeting with Anita Orban, Ambassador-at-Large for Energy Security of Hungary to discuss efforts to urge the Obama administration to counter Putin by expanding natural gas exports, according to the Speaker’s office.
On March 7, central European ambassadors including Orban and others from Poland, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic, sent a letter to Boehner to express support for America reducing Europe’s energy dependency on Russia.