Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced Tuesday that Democrats have agreed to nix the International Monetary Fund provision in a Ukraine aid package, in what amounts to a victory for House Republican leaders and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and a defeat for the White House. The Nevada Democrat told reporters Tuesday that he would like to move the bill quickly -- perhaps today. Earlier, Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Robert Menendez, D-N.J., conceded that removing the IMF provisions was the likely outcome.
By late yesterday, an aid package for Ukraine appeared to be on track. The Senate easily overcame Republican opposition to advance the bill, which included changes to the International Monetary Fund to expand loans to developing countries, including Ukraine.
But for reasons even many conservatives struggle to explain, House Republicans continued to insist that they would kill the bill if it included what's effectively an accounting change within IMF rules.
Democrats had a decision to make: drop the IMF provision or watch Republicans kill the entire proposal. They went with the former.
"The House Republican leadership is intransigent about IMF, despite the fact, that IMF, I think, is very important," Menendez told reporters this morning. "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 saw the IMF reforms as important, which likely only made it more difficult to get the measure passed. Reid said he'd spoken with officials in the West Wing about the only available solution.
"Of course, they're disappointed. We have to get IMF reformed but we can't hold up the other [parts of the legislation]," Reid said.
In the bigger picture, all of this is a reminder about the seriousness with which Republicans take foreign policy.
For weeks, GOP leaders have insisted, loudly and repeatedly, that "Obama must do more!" to respond forcefully to the Ukrainian crisis. But when given a chance to act themselves, many of those same congressional Republicans decided swift action wasn't so important after all -- what really mattered was standing in the way of IMF accounting changes.
Sure, responding to a foreign policy crisis, providing requested aid, and strengthening Ukraine's ties to the West is nice, but Republicans had a higher priority: preventing developing economies from receiving economic assistance from the IMF.