(CNN) – A Ukrainian aid package that previously stalled on Capitol Hill cleared a procedural hurdle on Monday as senators agreed to begin debating the bill this week.
The vote was 78 to 17 and came on the same day that the United States and other industrialized powers stepped up their pressure on Russia over the annexation of Crimea.
But final congressional approval of any aid plan and potential sanctions could take much longer as House and Senate lawmakers wrestle over unrelated matters in the legislation.Follow @politicalticker
One provision includes whether to approve long-delayed reforms to the International Monetary Fund. Most Senate Democrats, joined by the White House and a handful of Republicans, want to include the IMF reforms while most Republicans in the House and Senate oppose doing so.
With Russian forces positioned threateningly on the Ukrainian border, lawmakers are blaming one another for slowing Washington’s response to the crisis.
“It’s impossible to know if events would have unfolded differently if the United States had responded to this Russian aggression with a strong and unified voice, which we did not do,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
“Certainly, we don’t want to be bogged down in internal delay over other non-related or only slightly related issues,” warned Sen. Dan Coats, an Indiana Republican and a member of the Intelligence Committee .
Coats was one of a handful of U.S. officials placed on a Russia sanctions list last week.
Reid accused Republicans of blocking the Senate Ukraine bill, including the IMF reforms, in order to get Democrats and the White House to agree to delay newly drafted regulations for how some non-profit organizations, designated by the IRS tax code as 501 (c) (4)s, can spend their money on political advocacy.
“Republicans objected to moving forward with this aid package in order to protect the ability of the Koch brothers and other GOP donors to hide behind shadowy front groups – groups that spend millions on misleading, political attack ads,” Reid said.
Reid is leading a campaign against one of these groups, Americans for Prosperity, which is run by the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch who have targeted vulnerable Senate Democrats this election year.
Republicans acknowledge they are looking for a way to delay the IRS regulations, which they say will stifle free speech. But they blamed Reid and the White House for insisting the controversial IMF reforms are included in this bill as the real reason the bill is hung up.
Democrats argue the IMF reforms belong in the bill because they would allow the international bank to lend more money to the cash-strapped new Ukrainian government. Republicans say they want to handle the IMF matter in a separate bill they can fully debate and amend.
Significantly, the IMF reforms are not included in a new bill that the Republican-controlled House could vote on this week.
The House bill is otherwise expected to mirror the Senate measure, which includes $1 billion in loan guarantees for Ukraine, $150 million in direct aid, as well as sanctions against Russian officials and former Ukrainian officials responsible for violence against protesters there.
The push to drop the IMF language won support from a top House Democrat on Monday. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer told reporters that while he supports the IMF reforms, they are not as important as quickly passing a bill.
“The IMF ought to be included in this,” Hoyer said. “But if we can't get that passed we ought to pass the $1 billion without the IMF, because we need to move as quickly as we can to give confidence to the Ukrainian people, and evidence to the Russians that we fully intend to make sure the Ukraine is a viable economic unit."
- Paul Courson contributed to this report.