GOP senators said they spoke with former President Trump this week about his pitch to provide aid to Ukraine as a loan with strings attached, just ahead of the upper chamber passing a bipartisan $95 billion foreign aid package.
Republicans say they reached out to Trump about the idea and spoke to him on a Monday call.
“There was a group of us, and we were discussing on kind getting an understanding what he’s what he was thinking, and if he was serious about this, because if he is, then let’s figure out how to actually work this,” Sen. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) said. “And it was actually a great conversation.”
Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) said he also spoke with Trump, along with a handful of members, on the group call about the idea, which he said he thinks is getting “a lot of momentum” and argued isn’t “overly offensive to the recipients.”
“I mean, why shouldn’t Ukraine, which is mineral rich with the things that we need as a free country, or for that matter, frozen Russian assets that we have, why wouldn’t we make those things available to the American taxpayer to replenish the generosity,” Cramer said late Monday.
Cramer voted in favor of the package that passed the Senate 70-29 early Tuesday morning and contained $60 billion in aid for Ukraine. Mullin voted against it.
About $26 billion in funding would go toward replenishing U.S. weapons and munitions provided to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, a bill summary outlines. The bill also includes billions of dollars in funding for the submarine industrial base and measures aimed at bolstering artillery and munitions.
In a Saturday post on Truth Social, the former president said no funds “in the form of foreign aid should be given to any country unless it is done as a loan.”
He argued the loan could be made on “EXTRAORDINARILY GOOD TERMS,” with no interest and “unlimited life,” but certain strings attached.
“THE DEAL SHOULD BE (CONTINGENT!) THAT THE U.S. IS HELPING YOU, AS A NATION, BUT IF THE COUNTRY WE ARE HELPING EVER TURNS AGAINST US, OR STRIKES IT RICH SOMETIME IN THE FUTURE, THE LOAN WILL BE PAID OFF AND THE MONEY RETURNED TO THE UNITED STATES,” Trump wrote.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who has long backed more aid for Ukraine but voted against the Senate aid package, notably endorsed the idea Monday, arguing the “supplemental aid package should be a loan to the countries in question, as suggested by President Trump.”
“A loan on friendly terms allows America, who is deeply in debt, a chance to get our money back and changes the paradigm of how we help others. President Trump is right to insist that we think outside the box,” he said in a statement.
However, the idea has already been met with pushback on the other side of the aisle.
“Trump’s not president of the United States. He had terrible ideas when he was president of the United States,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said when asked about the pitch. “His ideas are even worse now, and the fact that my Republican colleagues are still letting him pull their strings is tragic.”
“Like whatever, he said one thing yesterday, he’ll say another thing tomorrow,” he said. “At some point, your job is to be a United States Senator or United States Congressman and make an independent judgment about what you think is right for the country and the world.”
The idea is also finding resistance in the Senate GOP conference.
Asked about the pitch this week, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) told reporters he “couldn’t care less.”
“In the case of Ukraine, for instance, they wouldn’t be able to pay it. Their economy has been devastated,” Romney said. “It’s a fig leaf. But if he wants a fig leaf and if it gets it to the House, I’d rather have that than nothing.”
“But I’d like what we have best,” he said. “But I’m not going to lay down the tracks on a loan that will never be repaid, just like the loans we’re giving to our college kids.”
Romney spoke in favor of the Senate’s aid bill on the floor, saying that “I know that shock jocks and online instigators have riled up many in the far reaches of my party, but if your position is being cheered by Vladimir Putin, it’s time to reconsider your position.”
Trump, the leading GOP candidate for president, last week helped kill a previous bipartisan Senate foreign aid package that included a border deal and had been months in the making.
Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) declared that measure “dead on arrival” in the House, and Senate Republicans blocked the bill within days of its release.
Johnson also came out against the measure that passed Tuesday for its lack of border provisions, firing a warning shot at the Senate late Monday and criticizing it for staying “silent on the most pressing issue facing our country.”
However, some Republicans also dismissed the statement shortly after.
“Yeah, let’s just not even exist as a Senate then if we have to ask permission from Donald Trump for everything we do, and the Speaker for everything we just do,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said. “Let’s just do our work. OK. That’s what I want to do.”
Murkowski was among the group of about 20 Republicans who voted to pass the emergency package.
Cramer, despite also voting for the bill, said he thinks Trump’s idea could be “very useful, very instructive and constructive in helping the House take what we give them and make it more like what he’s talking about.”
“The thing is he’s not irrelevant to our discussion because he could be the president and he has been the president, and so it’s not like his opinion doesn’t matter,” Cramer also said. “And I think it’s best to cooperate with him a little bit, pick his brain. It’s best to be on the same team on the same page.”
Alex Bolton contributed.