Speaker Says Ukraine Aid Package in Progress, Vote to Come After Recess

Alternative funding solutions are being considered for the package.
Speaker Says Ukraine Aid Package in Progress, Vote to Come After Recess
House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) speaks at the U.S. Capitol on March 20, 2024. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File
Samantha Flom

Legislation to provide additional aid for Ukraine is being drafted in the House and will be brought to the floor when members return from their current recess, House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) said on March 31.

Delivering the news during an interview with Fox News’ Trey Gowdy, Mr. Johnson said he had been working to garner support for the package in progress.

“Look, what we have to do in an era of divided government—historically, as we are—is 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,” he said.

“When it comes to the supplemental, we’ve been working to build that consensus. We’ve been talking to all the members, especially now over the district work period. When we return after this work period, we’ll be moving a product, but it’s going to, I think, have some important innovations.”

One potential “innovation” the speaker cited was the REPO for Ukrainians Act, a bill that would allow the secretary of state to use the seized assets of Russian oligarchs to aid Ukraine’s war efforts. That option, Mr. Johnson said, would be “pure poetry.”

Other possibilities he mentioned included a loan—a suggestion previously made by former President Donald Trump—and cutting off Russia’s primary funding source, its fuel exports, by offering American alternatives.

“There’s a lot of things that we should do that make more sense and that, I think, we’ll have consensus around,” the speaker said. “We’re putting that product together and we’ll be moving it right after district work period.”

Zelenskyy Calls for Aid

Mr. Johnson’s announcement comes on the heels of his March 28 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, during which the latter urged Congress’s “quick passage” of aid for Ukraine.

Recapping the conversation on X, Mr. Zelenskyy said he thanked the speaker and the American people for their “critical support” of Ukraine’s war efforts and briefed him on the current battleground situation amid Russia’s ramped-up airstrikes.

“Last week alone, 190 missiles, 140 ‘Shahed’ drones, and 700 guided aerial bombs were launched at Ukrainian cities and communities,“ he said. ”Ukraine’s largest hydroelectric power plant has gone offline.”

While Mr. Zelenskyy acknowledged the ongoing debate in Congress over additional aid for his war-torn country, he described the United States’ support as “vital.”

“We also discussed the importance of cutting off Russia’s sources of funding for its war as soon as possible and using frozen Russian assets for Ukraine’s benefit. We also rely on the leadership of Congress in this regard,” he said.

Members of Congress are on a two-week Easter recess. They are set to return to the Capitol next week.

First Downs and Hail Marys

Mr. Johnson has been supportive of continued aid for Ukraine but has also stressed the importance of securing the United States’ own borders first. When the Senate passed legislation that included funding for both Ukraine and immigration enforcement, he led the opposition in the House on the grounds that the bill heavily prioritized Ukraine and offered no significant border policy reforms.

As of yet, there has been no agreement reached on the crisis at the U.S.–Mexico border. While President Joe Biden and Democrats say additional funding is needed to stop the historic surge of illegal immigrants into the United States, Republicans hold that the president already possesses the funds and authority to fix the problem.

The standoff has put Mr. Johnson in a difficult position within his own party. While the more moderate faction of the GOP is pressing for further action on Ukraine and Israel, the right flank is adamant that no more funds be directed toward foreign wars when the United States’ own national security is in peril.

The speaker, meanwhile, presides over a razor-thin majority in just one-half of Congress. He can only afford one Republican defection on any bill he seeks to pass without the support of Democrats, who control the Senate and White House.

Those obstacles effectively bar Republicans from achieving their legislative ideals, Mr. Johnson told Fox News.

“So, we’re not going to get the legislation that we all desire and prefer. If we had the Senate and we had the White House—if Republicans were in charge, as we were several years ago—we would be doing the things we want to be. But right now, oftentimes, we have to play defense. We got to stop the Biden agenda, and by God’s grace, we’ve been able to do that,” he said.

The speaker noted that he was hopeful that the November election would grow the GOP’s majority in the House and provide him with more bargaining power. But in the meantime, he stressed, Republicans need to band together to secure the “incremental wins” that are still possible.

“We are for securing the border, standing up to China, unleashing American energy, saving American jobs, doing the things that the American people want us to do,” Mr. Johnson said.

“But we’ve got to realize I can’t throw a Hail Mary pass on every single play. It’s three yards and 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.”

Jackson Richman contributed to this report.
Samantha Flom is a reporter for The Epoch Times covering U.S. politics and news. A graduate of Syracuse University, she has a background in journalism and nonprofit communications. Contact her at [email protected].
Related Topics