Washington, D.C. – Rep. Eliot L. Engel, the Ranking Member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, gave the following remarks on the House floor today during debate on H.R. 4152, the Support for the Sovereignty, Integrity, Democracy, and Economic Stability of Ukraine Act of 2014, and S.2183, United States International Programming to Ukraine and Neighboring Regions.
The following statement was for H.R. 4152:
“Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of H.R. 4152, and yield myself as much time as I may consume.
“Last Thursday, the House passed H.R. 4278, the Ukraine Support Act, by the overwhelming margin of 399-19.
“At that time, I made an extended statement about how important it is for the United States to stand with the people of Ukraine, and to make clear to Putin and his cronies that there will be serious consequences for Russia’s aggression. With Russian forces massing on Ukraine's borders, tension and fear is spreading throughout the region, and our legislation sends a clear signal that Congress will not stand for further violations.
“Today, we consider the Senate version of our Ukraine legislation. This bill originated in the House as a measure to provide loan guarantees to Ukraine, and it passed this body on March 6 by a vote of 385-23. The Senate then took up this legislation, stripped out our text, inserted the Ukraine bill authored by Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Menendez and Ranking Member Corker, and sent it back to the House.
“Like the House bill, this legislation authorizes assistance for Ukraine as it attempts to right its struggling economy, increase energy security, strengthen civil society, and prepare for democratic elections this spring. It supports enhanced security cooperation with Ukraine and other countries in the region, and provides assistance to help Ukraine recover stolen assets. It also imposes sanctions on those responsible for violating Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, looting Ukraine's economy, and violating human rights in Ukraine.
“While the two bills are very similar, I wish that a number of provisions in the House legislation had been included in the Senate bill. For example, our bill would provide immediate assistance to Ukraine as it attempts to right its struggling economy, increase energy security, strengthen civil society and rule of law, and prepare for democratic elections this spring, while the Senate bill does not authorize assistance until next fiscal year, which doesn’t begin until October 1. The House bill includes an important provision supporting efforts to professionalize Ukraine’s law enforcement. And the House bill includes language that would require extra scrutiny of Russian banks that may be involved in nefarious activities in Ukraine or other parts of the world.
“But in the interests of time, I support House passage of this measure so we can get it to the President for his signature as soon as possible. The most important thing here is that both the House and Senate are united in sending a strong, bipartisan signal of support to the people of Ukraine, and in providing needed assistance at a critical moment.
“I urge my colleague to support this legislation, and I reserve the balance of my time.”
The following statement was for S. 2183:
“Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of S. 2183, a bill to provide surge news broadcasts to the people of Ukraine and the surrounding region in order to counter Russian propaganda, and I yield myself as much time as I may consume.
“Over the past few weeks, the people of Ukraine, Russia, and much of Eastern Europe have been bombarded by false and misleading information broadcast by the state-controlled and directed Russian media.
“Among other things, these so-called news reports claim that fascists and neo-Nazis have taken control of the government in Kiev, that they have been attacking ethnic Russians in Ukraine, and that they have engaged in widespread anti-Semitic acts.
“Despite the complete lack of evidence to substantiate these incendiary claims, President Putin and other Russian officials have repeatedly referred to these alleged events to justify the invasion of Crimea and their massing of troops on Ukraine’s border.
“It is important to note that a number of prominent Jewish leaders in Ukraine, including Chief Rabbi Yaakov Dov Bleich, have recently made clear that the Russian allegations about anti-Semitic acts in Ukraine are false, and that this baseless propaganda has been used as a pretext for the illegal annexation of Crimea. I ask unanimous consent to insert in the record a letter from Ukrainian Jewish leaders debunking the fabrications emanating from Russia.
“The legislation before us today, which is very similar to a provision included in the bipartisan Ukraine Support Act that passed the House last week, is a critical piece of our comprehensive approach to address the crisis in Ukraine.
“S. 2183 directs Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and the Voice of America to significantly increase radio, TV and Internet programming in Ukraine and other countries in the region.
“It also requires RFE/RL and VOA to expand their network of reporters in eastern Ukraine and Crimea and focus on news and information that directly rebuts misinformation from the Kremlin-controlled Russian media.
“I would note, Mr. Speaker, that this legislation originated in the House as part of the Foreign Affairs Committee’s Ukraine Support Act and was broken off in the Senate to create a separate bill. In the interest of expediting passage, I will support the bill, but in the future, I might expect that Congress would follow a different process.
“Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting S. 2183 to help ensure that the people of Ukraine, Moldova, the Balkan states and other countries in the region have access to objective and comprehensive news, and I reserve the balance of my time.”