Republicans Consider Seizing Russian Assets to Pay for Ukraine Aid

Republicans Consider Seizing Russian Assets to Pay for Ukraine Aid

Pressure is rising on House Speaker Mike Johnson to figure out a way to provide military aid to Ukraine and Israel.

Johnson told Politico’s Olivia Beavers Thursday that aid packages for Ukraine and Israel could emerge from the House in the coming weeks, either together or separately, following the completion of government funding bills due on March 22.

“I think it is a stand-alone, and I suspect it will need to be on suspension,” Johnson said, referring to a legislative process that would speed the floor vote while raising the requirement for passage to two-thirds – guaranteeing the need for significant Democratic support.  

The Republican leader would certainly need help from Democrats, given the significant resistance to providing more aid to Ukraine among House conservatives.

The calendar, however, could make it difficult if not impossible to pass aid quickly. The House is currently scheduled to go on break immediately after the shutdown deadline, potentially pushing any foreign aid bills well into next month.

Ukraine supporters, including some Republicans, have warned against waiting until April. “Pushing it off past next Friday is reckless, and I’ve made that clear,” House Armed Services Chair Mike Rogers, a Republican from Alabama, said.

Rep. Adam Smith, the senior Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, said he doesn’t think there’s enough time to bring up a new bill, so the House should focus instead on the $95 billion aid package already passed by the Senate, which includes $60 billion for Ukraine as well as money for Israel and the Indo-Pacific region. “The choice that Mike Johnson faces at this point is binary: Give us a vote on the Senate bill, or abandon Ukraine,” he said.

Eyeing Russian assets: Bloomberg’s Erik Wasson, Billy House, and Maeve Sheehey reported separately Thursday that the idea of seizing Russian assets to pay for another round of military aid to Ukraine is gaining traction among Republicans in Congress.

Texas Rep. Michael McCaul, the Republican Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said he is looking into using some of the $300 billion in Russian assets that were frozen in the West following the country’s invasion of Ukraine.

Rep. French Hill, a Republican from Arkansas, said Russian asset seizure “must” be part of any Ukraine aid bill. Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn said “It would be justice to make the Russians to pay for Ukraine, pay the United States and allies for arming Ukraine.”

Seizing Russian assets may be easier said than done, however. The majority of the Russian central bank funds – which include foreign currency, gold and government bonds – are being held in the central securities depository Euroclear in Belgium. There is no understanding yet on how to divide or use those funds, and reaching an agreement could a significant amount of take time and require further legislation.