House Approves Ukraine Loan Guarantees

By a bipartisan vote of 385-23, the House voted to approve legislation to provide loan guarantees for Ukraine, paving the way for the administration to extend about $1 billion loan to support the government there.

The House voted to add Ukraine to a 2013 measure that initially made funds available for loan guarantees under the Economic Support Fund for Jordan and Tunisia.

Although all 23 votes of opposition came from the GOP, 194 other Republicans and 191 Democrats supported the measure.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, applauded the vote and said the House will work next week to continue pressuring Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"The House's swift, bipartisan action today reflects America's solidarity with the Ukrainian people," Boehner wrote in a statement. "This is only a start on fulfilling our commitment to provide the president as many tools as needed to keep President Putin in check and protect the sovereignty of Russia's neighbors. In the coming days, the House will work to leverage every available resource - including American-made energy - to strengthen Ukraine and our allies in Europe."

Based on the funds remaining from last year and the ability of the Obama administration to transfer funding between accounts through a normal transfer process, proponents believe the approach will ensure that resources are immediately available to cover the costs of the administration's loan guarantee proposal. Because the approach uses existing resources, it does not require any new appropriation of budget authority.

Earlier today, Boehner did not back off comments calling Putin a "thug," and said he supports the sanctions outlined by President Obama earlier today to freeze some assets and block U.S. visas.

"You've heard me call President Putin a thug. That's because he is, and he's counting on the United States to sit back and watch him do and take whatever he wants," Boehner said during a news conference at the Capitol today. "We remain committed to working with the administration to give President Obama as many tools as needed to put President Putin in check and prevent Russia from infringing on the sovereignty of any of its neighbors."

Boehner has called on the president to order Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz to expedite approval of American natural gas exports in order to weaken Russia's influence over European countries that depend on Russian energy exports.

"Russia … has an energy stranglehold on much of Europe and has been using it to its own advantage," he said. "There is growing consensus that ending this de facto export ban would not only keep Putin in check but help our economy, as well and help our allies in Europe. I think it's time to act, and I hope the president does."

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