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Lindsey Graham
Sen. Lindsey Graham told NOTUS that Donald Trump’s statement on the aid package helped get it through the House. Andrew Harnik/AP

Republican Senators Who Flipped on Foreign Aid Say It’s Due to Trump

Some Republican senators who helped pass billions of dollars in foreign aid, despite opposing similar legislation earlier this year, credit former President Donald Trump’s support — or at least his lack of opposition — for their change of heart.

“He was literally the center of all this,” Sen. Markwayne Mullin said.

A Truth Social post, shared three days before the Senate passed the original version of the $95 billion aid bill to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, provided some of the blueprint for the current aid package being considered by the Senate. In it, Trump called on Senate Republicans to only consider aid to Ukraine if it was structured as a loan.

They got the memo.

“That one Truth Social post is what led us to where we are today,” Mullin said. The Senate passed the aid bill on Tuesday night on a wide bipartisan vote of 79-18, with 31 Republicans supporting it.

Mullin said that a group of conservative lawmakers — led by Speaker Mike Johnson — then started consulting with the GOP’s presidential nominee to craft a bill that would be more acceptable to Republican members and, most importantly, to Trump, who has been vocal in opposing more aid to Ukraine. Johnson’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

“People respect President Trump’s opinions and we make sure to take them into account,” said Sen. Katie Britt, who ultimately supported the aid bill. “I appreciated his ideas on the [Ukraine] loan-lease.”

The new bill that ended up passing the House included the loan idea but allows for a future president to forgive that loan in 2026.

“This would not have passed without Donald Trump,” Sen. Lindsey Graham said on Fox News Sunday, emphasizing the loan structure of Ukraine aid in the new bill and attributing it to the former president. Graham voted no on February’s aid package.

Johnson visited Trump at Mar-a-Lago two weeks ago and made sure the lawmakers “were all on the same page” with the GOP nominee, said Mullin. With Johnson standing next to him, Trump told reporters, “We’re looking at it right now, and they’re talking about it, and we’re thinking about making it in the form of a loan instead of just a gift.”

Still, 112 House Republicans voted against Ukraine aid this past weekend, and some conservative allies of Trump, like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, are furious at Johnson for bringing the bill to the floor and are threatening his ouster. Greene wouldn’t give a date for when she might try to remove Johnson from his post, but she wanted Republicans to get an earful from their constituents before doing so.

“It’s political season, so the politics had to go in front of the policy on this one,” said Mullin, which means that the bill’s new additions — its loan structure, the REPO Act allowing for the sale of seized Russian assets, and the forced sale of TikTok — made it more defensible to conservative voters back home. Most importantly, it got Trump on board.

“The base isn’t exactly excited about it, right?” Mullin said. “But the idea that President Trump was supportive of it … made it palatable.”

“I think it really mattered a lot to Johnson, a lot,” Graham told NOTUS of getting Trump on board. “It’s mattered to some senators who originally voted no, but I think it made it possible to get through the House.”

While the loan idea may have featured heavily among Trump’s more loyal confidants in the Senate, it wasn’t the only attempt to shift Republican votes. A letter circulated by Sen. Roger Wicker pushed back hard against the idea that the United States wouldn’t reap any benefits from offering aid to Ukraine and other nations.

“The supplemental is the most important opportunity Congress has this year to increase U.S. domestic production of artillery rounds for the U.S. military,” the letter says.

Sen. James Lankford, an architect of the original border and aid bill tanked by Republicans, ultimately voted against the Senate’s national security supplemental earlier this year. Now he’s flipped and told reporters he won’t punish Israel and Ukraine just because “we can’t get more at this point.”

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell celebrated the increased support. While the GOP’s isolationist push hasn’t gone away, “we certainly prevailed by a larger majority today than we did two months ago,” McConnell told reporters at a press conference. “If you’re looking for a trend, I think it’s a trend in the direction that I would like to see us go.”

But where Trump is, the party follows — as usual.

“I think for some people, that’s what they were needing,” Mullin said of Trump’s help.

Ben T.N. Mause and John T. Seward are NOTUS reporters and Allbritton Journalism Institute fellows.