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1 Apr, 2024 16:13

US Congress could pass Ukraine funding soon – House speaker

Republicans in the lower chamber are looking for ways to sell the bill to their base
US Congress could pass Ukraine funding soon – House speaker

The US House of Representatives is likely to vote on the $61 billion Ukraine aid bill, with some “innovations” added, after it returns from recess on April 9, Speaker Mike Johnson has said.

The Louisiana Republican has been under tremendous pressure to call a vote since mid-February, when the White House’s request was approved by the Senate. Speaking with Fox News on Sunday evening, Johnson signaled that he might finally do so next week.

“When we return after this work period, we’ll be moving a product, but it’s going to, I think, have some important innovations,” he said.

Among the ideas under consideration are converting a portion of the grants into a loan, which was endorsed by the prospective presidential nominee Donald Trump, and using the Russian property seized under the Rebuilding Economic Prosperity and Opportunity (REPO) for Ukrainians Act.

“If we can use the seized assets of Russian oligarchs to allow the Ukrainians to fight them, that’s just pure poetry,” Johnson told Fox. “Even Trump has talked about the loan concept, where we’re not just giving foreign aid, we’re setting it up in a relationship where they can provide it back to us when the time is right.”

The White House originally requested the Ukraine funding in October, as part of a $100 billion bundle including military aid to Israel and Taiwan. It was originally delayed by the Republican ouster of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and the election of Johnson, who vowed to vote on single-item bills only. 

Since then, however, multiple Republican members of the House have abruptly resigned their seats, threatening the party’s already slim majority. Speaking with Trey Gowdy – himself a former member of Congress, who resigned in 2018 to take a job at Fox – Johnson argued that the party can ill afford any dissent.

“What we have to do in an era of divided government, historically, as we are, you got to build consensus. If we want to move a partisan measure, I got to have every single member, literally. And some things need to be bipartisan,” Johnson said.

Last week, Johnson agreed to ram through a $1.2 trillion omnibus funding President Joe Biden’s agenda through September, in exchange for symbolic concessions

While some Republicans oppose pouring more money down the Ukraine drain, they are outnumbered by supporters of the Kiev government, and the bill has a good chance of passing with the support of Democrats. 

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