House Republicans Look to Frozen Russian Assets to Fund Ukraine

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(Bloomberg) -- House Republicans are ramping up work on their own Ukraine package, and the idea of seizing Russian assets to pay for billions in war aid is gaining traction within the party.

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The two parties for months have been locked in a stalemate over $60 billion in funding for Ukraine, which has also tied up funding for Israel and Taiwan.

House Speaker Mike Johnson continues to insist the Biden administration take action to secure the US-Mexico border before he’ll offer a Ukraine bill in the House. Still, he’s publicly discussed the importance of preventing Russia from overtaking Ukraine.

“I understand the timetable and the urgency of the funding,” he told reporters at the annual House GOP retreat in West Virginia this week.

Read more: Seize or Freeze Russian Assets? It’s a Fraught Debate: QuickTake

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul of Texas said Thursday he’s working “on a path forward” for Ukraine aid. One way to pay for it that’s increasingly popular among Republicans, he said, is seizing about $300 billion in frozen Russian sovereign assets to pay for it. Republican French Hill of Arkansas said Russian asset seizure “must” be part of the bill.

McCaul said he’s also talked with colleagues about providing the Ukrainian government with loans instead of grant payments to reduce costs to taxpayers and draw more GOP support.

Any such package would need Democratic support to pass the House, given the number of ultraconservative Republicans who do not want to further fund Ukraine.

So far, House Democrats have insisted that the House simply pass the Senate’s bill, arguing there is no time to try a different approach with Ukraine running out of ammunition.

As the situation in Ukraine becomes more dire, there are calls within Europe to use frozen Russian assets to pay for Ukraine’s defense and reconstruction, but Russia has warned against that.

Read More: Russian Victory in Ukraine Would Affect US, Latvian Premier Says

The European Union, the Group of Seven nations and Australia have frozen about €260 billion ($280 billion) in the form of securities and cash, with more than two-thirds of that immobilized in the EU.

Last month, Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said Moscow would give a “symmetrical” response to any actions by the US and its allies that target its assets.

“We also have no fewer frozen” assets than the West holds, Siluanov said in an interview with the state-run RIA Novosti news service.

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