The Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Ranking Member Bob Corker of Tennessee are still negotiating on a bill to provide aid to Ukraine. The two sides are caught up over policies regarding reforming the International Monetary Foundation (IMF) and 501(c)4 groups, non-profits that are limited in their political activities. In 2010, the IMF approved a number of reforms, and since they would affect the amount the United States gives to the organization, Congress must pass them into law. The Obama Administration and congressional Democrats support the measures. Republicans would like to see the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Department of the Treasury rescind a rule limiting the activity of political non-profits in campaigns. Members from both parties say that their opponents’ measures should not be included in the legislation providing aid to Ukraine. Although that much is still to be determined, Chairman Menendez published a Washington Post op-ed describing the aid bill. He wrote that the bill would provide $50 million for “democracy, governance and civil society assistance” and $100 million for security measures. It also levies sanctions “against Ukrainians and Russians alike responsible for violence and serious human rights abuses…and those responsible for undermining the peace, security, stability, sovereignty or territorial integrity of Ukraine.”
Although the parties are engaged in a little tussle over particular provisions of the Ukraine aid bill, not every Senate controversy is strictly partisan. Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, recently accused the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of spying on her panel. She said that the CIA was obstructing an investigation the committee was engaged in, and that the agency had monitored their computers without permission. Of course this story has all the allure and intrigue that attends anything that has to do with the CIA, but it also touches on the relation between the Executive and Legislative Branches. Although the Senate is often riven with partisanship, Chairman Feinstein’s accusations did not provoke uniform responses from either the Democrats or Republicans. For instance, Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, and Republican Senators John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina all expressed concern over the alleged CIA actions. On the other hand, Democratic Senator Barbara Mikulski of Maryland and Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, the Committee’s Vice Chairman, were more circumspect in their responses to the claims.
One area in which the parties might be able to work together is prison reform. There are signs that both inside and outside Congress some affiliated with the Republicans and Democrats are working together for changes to prison policies. For instance, the conservative Right on Crime has met with liberals to discuss policy on the matter. Within Congress, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky and some of his colleagues have met with officials from the Obama Administration to discuss reforming mandatory sentences. Senator Paul and Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy have worked together to draft a bill on the topic as well.
And for our latest post: More Nuclear-Option Fallout: Senate Blocks Presidential Appointment