Johnson Will Send Ukraine Aid Package to the Senate After all

News & Politics

Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) has bowed to pressure from Senate Republicans and will send a Ukraine aid package to the Senate soon.

The aid bill will not resemble the $95 billion aid package the Senate passed in February. Instead, it will probably be in the form of loans or lend-lease structure to make it appear Ukraine would be paying it back.

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Johnson unveiled the plan during a question-and-answer session at the annual Senate Republican retreat, which took place at the Library of Congress.

Johnson also spoke of including something similar to the REPO Act (Rebuilding Economic Prosperity and Opportunity) for Ukraine, sponsored by Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas). That legislation would authorize “the confiscation of Russian sovereign assets and deposit the proceeds of liquidated property into a Ukraine support fund,” according to The Hill.

“I did get the sense that after the appropriations bills were taken care of that they would turn to that, and there have been a number of suggestions. One has to do with the forfeiture, basically, of $300 billion in Russian assets, which I think is a great idea,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas).

“It would be justice to make the Russians to pay for Ukraine, pay the United States and allies for arming Ukraine,” he said.

It’s a great idea, as Cornyn said. The only problem is getting at the assets. Technically, there are $300 billion in Russian sovereign assets frozen in banks all over the West. But seizing them would set a bad precedent. And many of those assets will be very hard to convert to hard currency. In short, it can be done but it would take a while, and it’s doubtful we’ll get anywhere near $300 billion.

Cornyn, an adviser to the Senate GOP leadership team, also praised the idea of setting up a lend-lease program to help Ukraine in addition to or perhaps instead of the $60 billion the Senate included in its emergency package.

“That’s what FDR did in World War II,” he said of a lend-lease program, which President Franklin Roosevelt signed in 1941 to arm Britain and other allies against Nazi Germany.

After hearing from Johnson, Cornyn said he’s “pretty optimistic” about the House sending a Ukraine aid package to the Senate.

“I’ve heard the Speaker now say ‘We’re not going to leave Ukraine empty-handed,’ or words to that effect,” he said.

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There will still be a few bitter-end House Republicans who won’t support aid to Ukraine under any circumstances. But there will be more than enough Democrats to make up the difference. 

It’s unknown what the dollar amount in aid to Ukraine will be or whether there will also be aid for Israel and Taiwan as well as border security measures. Whatever it is, Johnson is confident it can pass the House.

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