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Reuters, Published March 05 2014

U.S. House to vote soon on aid for Ukraine

WASHINGTON - U.S. House of Representatives Republicans will work with President Barack Obama to address the crisis in Ukraine and tensions with Russia, voting soon on legislation offering financial aid, House leaders said on Wednesday.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said the House would vote soon on a $1 billion loan guarantee package for Ukraine and will consider measures to "put significant pressure on Russia to stop the flagrant aggression to its neighbor in Ukraine.

"The world community should stand united against this invasion, America should be leading and we'll vote soon on legislation to aid the Ukrainian people," he told reporters.

House Speaker John Boehner added that the Republican-led House will work in a bipartisan way with Obama, a Democrat, even as he criticized the president's foreign policy toward Russia.

"With regard to Ukraine, the steps that have not been taken over the last three or four years, (by Obama) frankly, allowed Putin to believe that he could do what he's doing without any reaction from us. But given where we are, we're here, in a bipartisan way, trying to work with the president, to strengthen his hand," Boehner said.

He said this includes the loan guarantee bill as well as consideration of a "toolbox" of sanctions authority that is similar to those used against Iran in recent years to persuade it to rein in its nuclear ambitions.

Their comments come as the United States weighs its response along with European allies in a confrontation with Russia over its intervention in Ukraine's Crimea region. Russia has effectively occupied the area following the ouster of Ukraine's president last month.

U.S. officials have already taken several steps in reaction to the crisis but have indicated they are also considering sanctions, which Congress would have to support.

Boehner criticized Obama for failing to approve liquefied natural gas exports, which would lessen the dependence of European allies on Russian gas.

Cantor said it was important that the costs of the Ukraine loan guarantee be offset with other savings, but the House will proceed to a vote on the measure without a cost estimate from the Congressional Budget Office to move it quickly.

Any dispute in Congress over how to pay for the measure could slow down its progress.