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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Johnson outlines plan for Ukraine aid; House could act within weeks

By Catie Edmondson New York Times

WASHINGTON – House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., has begun publicly laying out potential conditions for extending a fresh round of U.S. military assistance to Ukraine, the strongest indication yet that he plans to push through the chamber a package that many Republicans view as toxic and have tried to block.

His terms may include tying the aid for Ukraine to a measure that would force President Joe Biden to reverse a moratorium on new permits for liquefied natural gas export facilities, something that Republicans would see as a political victory against the Democratic president’s climate agenda. The move would also hand 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.

“When we return after this work period, we’ll be moving a product, but it’s going to have some important innovations,” Johnson said Sunday in an interview on Fox News.

That strongly suggests that the aid package for Ukraine, which has been stalled on Capitol Hill for months amid Republican resistance, could clear Congress within weeks. It enjoys strong support among Democrats and a large coalition of mainstream Republicans, and the main obstacle standing in its way in the House has been Johnson’s refusal to bring it up in the face of vehement hard-right opposition in the Republican Party to sending more aid.

But after the Senate passed a $95 billion aid package for Ukraine and Israel, and with Johnson facing pressure from the Biden administration and NATO allies, the Republican speaker has been searching for a path forward.

Now, the question appears to be not whether Johnson will allow aid to come to the floor, but in what form and when.

Johnson cited the REPO Act, which would pay for some of the aid by selling off Russian sovereign assets that have been frozen, as one idea under consideration.

U.S. officials had previously been skeptical of the idea, warning that there was no precedent for seizing large sums of money from another sovereign nation and that the move could set off unpredictable legal ramifications and economic consequences. Only about $5 billion or so of Russian assets are in the hands of U.S. institutions; more than $300 billion in Russian central bank assets are stashed in Western nations.

But the Biden administration has quietly come around on the idea.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.