Congress Prepares Response to Ukraine Crisis

Image: US Senate Democratic leadership hold a news conference
epa04024847 Senate Majority Leader, Democrat from Nevada, Harry Reid (R), listens to a question from a member of the news media, beside Democratic Senator from New York, Chuck Schumer (L), during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington DC, USA, 16 January 2014. Senate Democratic leadership blamed Republicans for failing to reach an agreement on an extension of unemployment benefits that would help about 1.4 million Americans out of work. EPA/MICHAEL REYNOLDSMICHAEL REYNOLDS / EPA

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Congressional leaders on Monday said they are prepared to provide economic aid to Ukraine and increase pressure on Russia as tensions continue to escalate in the eastern European conflict.

"To deal with the crisis in Ukraine and respond to Russia's provocation, I have asked our House committee Chairmen to develop plans to assist the government of Ukraine, put pressure on Russia, and reassure allies throughout the world that the United States will not stand idly by in the face of such aggression," House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said in a statement.

Cantor also said Congress will begin to review if it can provide the Obama administration authority to impose sanctions on Russian officials following its military intervention into Ukraine's Crimea region.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., indicated on Monday that the Senate would also be exploring ways to help Ukraine.

"What I am going to recommend is that anything that we do would be in coordination with our allies," said Reid. "And President Obama has said he wants to give economic aid. I think that's appropriate.”

The Senate isn't holding votes until Wednesday because of bad weather, and it's not yet clear what an aid package or set of actions might look like. But aides and members were in discussions over the weekend about how to move forward, and Republicans are already pressing for a tough response toward Russia.

President Obama earlier today said that Congress should "work with the administration to help provide a package of assistance to the Ukrainians, to the people and that government."