© 2024 Allbritton Journalism Institute
Ukraine Zelenskyy
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has urged the U.S. to approve more aid to his country. AP

Johnson Says There Will Be a Ukraine Aid Vote. The Details Are TBD.

At the center of Republicans’ ongoing negotiations is whether the funds will come in the form of a loan, as Donald Trump floated.

House Speaker Mike Johnson has confirmed to Republican members that Ukraine aid will be brought to the floor next week, but a mess of outstanding issues could easily cause it to fall apart.

Still undecided: whether or not to include humanitarian aid, if funding should come in the form of aid or a loan, if Israel and Ukraine should be brought together or divided and if any provisions should be added to court more of the party, like provisions around the U.S. southern border or action around liquefied natural gas exports.

“Just to be candid, Ukraine divides our party,” Republican Rep. Don Bacon said. “Israel is what divides the Democratic Party. So we’re trying to figure out, is it better to pass these individually or together. I’m not too sure which is the best way, but we want to do both.”

Johnson said Wednesday that leaders are “working on it as we speak.”

At the center of negotiations is whether or not military aid will come in the form of a loan, an idea former President Donald Trump has floated in recent months.

Of the $60 billion President Joe Biden requested for Ukraine — which passed the Senate in February — $48 billion would stay in the U.S. to manufacture weapons and artillery to be sent to Ukraine. But Republicans are calling for the additional $12 billion in direct assistance to be sent over as a loan. Sen. Lindsey Graham pitched a no-interest, waivable loan after meeting with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy last month.

So far, Democratic leadership has not been involved with negotiations with Johnson on Ukraine aid, according to House Democratic Caucus Chair Pete Aguilar.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told NOTUS that “the easiest way” to get aid to Ukraine is for the House to pass the Senate supplemental. He wouldn’t respond to whether he’s open to a loan option if passed by the House. Johnson has repeatedly said he won’t bring the Senate bill to the floor.

Several House Republicans confirmed to NOTUS that Johnson told them some aid would come in the form of a loan, though the bill text has not been finalized. Republican Rep. Andy Harris pointed to the European Union’s $53 billion three-year proposal for Ukraine, which was structured as a loan, as an example of what Congress should do.

“I think that the expectation should be that it’s paid back, and the bar set for it not being paid back be set fairly high,” Harris said.

Some Democrats have expressed a willingness to look at a loan option and see the odds that Ukraine would ever be required to pay off a loan as low.

“Frankly, the reason why a certain number of Republicans want to adopt this loan language is simply because Donald Trump came up with it, and it’s their never-ending quest to attempt to pacify their dear leader,” Democratic Rep. Brendan Boyle said. “But the bulk of the aid would still have to be direct aid, and even if it’s somehow labeled a loan, the idea we would ever get that money back is preposterous.”

The biggest question of all may be how Johnson will bring the bill to the floor. The best way to guarantee passage would be to bring the bill up under suspension and pass it using Democratic votes, but that would risk the ire of conservative members who are already frustrated with Johnson’s use of this tactic. Leaving Johnson’s office on Tuesday, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene said that she’s closely watching what Johnson does as she considers whether to force a vote on his ouster.

Katherine Swartz is a NOTUS reporter and an Allbritton Journalism Institute fellow.