Johnson Outlines Risky Plan for More Ukraine Aid

Johnson Outlines Risky Plan for More Ukraine Aid


As he fights to fend off a threat to oust him from his job, Speaker Mike Johnson has also begun to publicly sketch out plans to move ahead with a long-delayed new round of aid to Ukraine.

Many of Johnson’s own party members are strongly opposed to providing more funding for Ukraine, including Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, who has already filed a motion to remove the speaker from his job but has yet to force a vote on the issue. With that threat of a Republican revolt hanging over him, Johnson has been working to construct a Ukraine aid package that might win some more votes from his conservative members, or at least wouldn’t further fuel their ire. On Sunday night, he told Fox News that he expects to move ahead with an aid bill after the House returns from its recess next week, but that the plan would include “some important innovations.”

He brought up three ideas:

1. Using the seized assets of Russian oligarchs, which Johnson said would be “pure poetry.” The United States and its allies froze about $300 billion of Russian central bank assets after Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022. A bipartisan bill called the Rebuilding Economic Prosperity and Opportunity (REPO) for Ukrainians Act would let the administration confiscate the roughly $5 billion of those funds that are in the United States and transfer them to Ukraine.

“While the policy has been taking shape for several months, a series of tense issues and key details still need to be resolved,” Politico’s Zachary Warmbrodt writes.

Some officials have worried that the unprecedented move could have unforeseen economic consequences or raise worries about American-held assets. Some U.S. lawmakers reportedly also fear that the funds would be seen as an alternative to providing more assistance. And resistance among EU officials would also need to be addressed.

2. Structuring the assistance as a loan. Some Republicans have embraced this proposal as a way to contain costs after former president Donald Trump floated it.

3. Ramping up natural gas exports. Johnson is reportedly eyeing a measure that would reverse a Biden administration pause on new permits for liquefied natural gas export facilities. “We want to have natural gas exports that will help unfund Vladimir Putin’s war effort there,” he said on Fox News.

Republicans would see that as a political win against Biden’s climate agenda, Catie Edmondson of The New York Times notes. “The move,” she adds, “would also hand Mr. Johnson a powerful parochial win, unblocking a proposed export terminal in his home state of Louisiana that would be situated along a shipping channel that connects the Gulf of Mexico to Lake Charles.”

In his Fox News appearance, Johnson also acknowledged the intraparty challenges he faces and issued a call for Republican unity. He noted that, given the historically slim GOP House majority, he can only afford to lose one Republican on any vote. “So we’re not going to get the legislation that we [Republicans] all desire and prefer,” he said, adding that under the current conditions, his party is often focused on stopping Biden’s agenda rather than pursuing major conservative goals that would be impossible to enact.

“We’ve got to drive our conservative agenda and get the incremental wins that are still possible right now,” he said before turning to a football metaphor: “We’ve got to realize I can’t throw a Hail Mary pass on every single play. It’s three yards a cloud of dust, right? We’ve got to get the next first down, keep moving, and we’ll do that and we can show the American people what we’re for.”

The bottom line: Johnson has indicated that the stalled aid to Ukraine would be a top priority when the House returns, but he hasn’t previously detailed how and when he would bring up that legislation. He has refused to allow the House to simply take up a $95 billion foreign aid package passed by the Senate, leading to months of uncertainty. He’s now searching for a way to provide that aid without sparking a chaotic revolt from his right flank, though the ideas he mentioned are reportedly not final. Johnson knows he will need Democratic votes to pass an aid package, meaning that he has little leverage to tack on a conservative wish list of policies.