Long-Delayed U.S. Aid To Ukraine May Soon Take Shape. Here’s How.

5 mins read
Volodymyr Zelenskiy Mike Johnson
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy (left) shakes hands with the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Mike Johnson, in Washington on December 12.

WASHINGTON — After months of delays that have sapped the strength of Ukraine’s fight against the Russian invasion, a multibillion-dollar aid bill may soon be headed toward passage by the U.S. Congress, albeit with substantial challenges still in its path.

Mike Johnson, the Republican speaker of the House of Representatives, told Fox News on March 31 that he wants new Ukraine aid approved “right now” and suggested he would propose a package soon after Congress returns from recess on April 9.

Johnson said the proposal would include “important innovations,” indicating it would differ substantially from the bill that was passed by the Senate in February following months of wrangling and the rejection by Republicans of a package that President Joe Biden requested in October.

The bill passed by the Senate authorizes about $60 billion in support for Ukraine, most of it for weapons and other military aid.

Johnson did not describe plans for his version of the bill in detail, but he suggested lawmakers would consider at least three potential elements: providing aid in the form of loans; using frozen Russian assets to support Ukraine; and ramping up U.S. natural-gas exports to squeeze Russia’s budget revenue.

Here’s a look at what the proposal might contain and how it could fare in Congress.


A vocal group of right-wing Republicans in the House has raised concern about aid to Ukraine, financial support in particular, highlighting the country’s long-standing reputation for corruption. They also say that money is better spent at home.

While most of the proposed $60 billion consists of weapons and military services, such as training and intelligence sharing, a portion consists of financial aid. Ukraine’s economy has been battered by Russia’s full-scale invasion, now in its third year, and Kyiv needs foreign aid to help pay soldiers’ salaries and keep the lights on amid intense attacks on energy infrastructure.

Former President Donald Trump, who is the presumptive Republican Party nominee to face Biden in the election in November and has enormous influence over the party, has expressed reservations about aid to Ukraine but said he would support loans to the embattled country, an idea Johnson has seized on.

Former U.S. President and the Republican Party's presumptive presidential candidate in the November election, Donald Trump, has expressed reservations about continued aid to Ukraine.
Former U.S. President and the Republican Party’s presumptive presidential candidate in the November election, Donald Trump, has expressed reservations about continued aid to Ukraine.

“Even President 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,” Johnson told Fox News. He did not say whether he wants all of the aid in the bill to be subject to repayment or only the financial support, though some experts have said it is likely to be just the latter.

Utah Senator Mitt Romney, a Republican who backed the Senate bill, called the idea of loaning money to Ukraine a “fig leaf,” saying Kyiv would not be able to pay it back due to the devastation caused by the war. International financial institutions have put the cost of rebuilding Ukraine in the hundreds of billions of dollars.


Some in the United States want to make Russia finance reconstruction in Ukraine by seizing its central bank reserves held in the West and using them to support Kyiv, a controversial move as experts say it could undermine trust in the U.S. dollar.

Senators last year introduced Rebuilding, Economic Prosperity, and Opportunity for Ukrainians Act (REPO), which would give the U.S. president the authority to seize the assets and transfer them to Ukraine.

However, most of the Central Bank reserves are held in the European Union, requiring Brussels to be on board. The EU is studying the idea of seizing only the interest income from the principal, which stands at around $300 billion. The Russian central bank reserves are generating a few billion dollars a year in interest.

In his comments to Fox News, Johnson said that using seized Russian assets to help Ukraine fight Russia would be “pure poetry.”

LNG Exports

The United States and the European Union have sought to undermine Russia’s ability to fund its war on Ukraine by sanctioning its energy exports, which generate more than 30 percent of federal budget revenues. While oil exports account for the lion’s share of that, natural gas exports are a significant source of revenue for Russia.

The United States, the world’s largest natural-gas producer, has the resources to export greater volumes of liquefied natural gas (LNG) and thereby decrease Russia’s market share. However, it does not have sufficient infrastructure to do so, specifically LNG export terminals.

Earlier this year, Biden paused the issuance of new LNG export terminal licenses following protests from environmentalists, who are a key constituency for Democrats, and voiced concerns that building new facilities would exacerbate the pollution that contributes to climate change.

Trump and other Republicans favor fewer restrictions on energy production. Republican attorneys general from 16 states — led by Louisiana, Johnson’s home state — sued the Biden administration over its decision.

In his comments to Fox News, Johnson said he wants “to have natural-gas exports that will help unfund Vladimir Putin’s war effort.”

Congressional Reaction

Johnson’s plan to submit a bill that potentially differs significantly from the Senate bill has caused concern among Ukraine backers on both sides of the political spectrum in the upper chamber of Congress.

California Senator Laphonza Butler, a Democrat, said some of Johnson’s potential changes to the Ukraine aid bill, such as ending the moratorium on new LNG terminal licenses, could trigger a lengthy debate, warning that time is not on Ukraine’s side at the moment.

“I think opening up new cans at this point is probably one of the things that’s going to take the most time and, to me, opening up avenues like that is another delay,” she told reporters on April 1.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat from Rhode Island who co-authored the REPO Act, said he could accept most potential changes but expressed opposition to ending the LNG moratorium.

“I’m glad it looks like Ukraine aid will move. I’m glad my REPO bill is part of the package. I don’t mind a loan if the president can waive it. But it’s just plain gross that Republicans need extraneous tribute for their fossil fuel donors. Yuck,” he said in an April 2 tweet.

Republican Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, who is one of the most vocal critics of aid to Ukraine in the House, filed a resolution last month to oust Mike Johnson from the post of speaker.
Republican Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, who is one of the most vocal critics of aid to Ukraine in the House, filed a resolution last month to oust Mike Johnson from the post of speaker.

Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who is the leader of Republicans in the Senate and played a crucial role in getting the Ukraine aid bill through the upper chamber in February, has expressed frustration with Johnson’s plan to submit his own bill, saying, “We’re running out of time.”

The Republicans have a razor-thin 218-213 majority in the House of Representatives at the moment. However, some right-wing Republicans in the lower chamber are outright opponents of aid to Ukraine, requiring Johnson to win support from Democratic lawmakers.

Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (Republican-Georgia), who is one of the most vocal critics of aid to Ukraine in the House, filed a resolution last month to oust Johnson from the post of speaker. In an unprecedented move, right-wing Republicans helped topple fellow party member Kevin McCarthy from the speakership in October after cooperating with Democrats to pass a spending bill that avoided a government shutdown. Republican Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida, another vocal opponent of aid to Ukraine, said he wants the new bill to include spending cuts amid a ballooning budget deficit.

“If there were no offsets, we’d be disappointed. I think we need to not deficit-spend to fund Ukraine. I also think we need to have our own border prioritized,” Gaetz told CNN.

It is unclear whether Johnson and his colleagues will seek to include funding for changes on the U.S. border with Mexico, the subject of a dispute that has been a major factor in bitter debates and the blockage of new aid to Ukraine since last year.

Discharge Petition

Should Johnson refuse to bring a bill to the House floor amid fear of his ouster by hard-liners, there would still be a chance that aid for Ukraine could be approved.

Ukraine supporters in the House are advancing an initiative known as a discharge petition, which would permit the lower chamber to vote on the Senate bill, overriding Johnson’s authority.

Experts say that there is sufficient support among Democrats and Republicans in the House to complete this process and pass the bill in its current form.