Trump wants to give Ukraine a 'loan' — but some of his GOP allies on Capitol Hill worry it would never be paid back

  • Trump raised the idea of providing US aid to Ukraine via loan so that it might get paid back.

  • But Republicans on Capitol Hill are skeptical that will happen.

  • "I just think a loan ends up being a grant," said one House Republican.

There's a relatively new idea floating around the political world, and it's being pushed by former President Donald Trump: What if Ukraine aid came in the form of a loan?

"We should loan them the money," Trump said at a rally in Ohio on Saturday. "If they make it — they're against tremendous odds — but if they make it, they pay us back."

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who's both a staunch Trump ally and a supporter of Ukraine, talked up the idea during a trip to Kyiv over the weekend. Several other Republican lawmakers sound open to the idea as well.

It should be said up front: this idea probably isn't going anywhere.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has dismissed the idea, telling reporters on Wednesday that "we're running out of time" to help the country and that the House should just pass the $93.5 billion Ukraine and Israel aid bill that the Senate passed last month.

There are also few details about how such a "loan" plan would work. Of the roughly $60 billion for Ukraine included in the Senate's aid bill, more than $48.4 billion goes toward the purchase and manufacture of US weapons to send to Ukraine, while the rest is direct monetary aid to the besieged country. It's unclear if Ukraine would be on the hook for the entirety of the $60 billion, or just the direct aid.

But Trump's suggestion — a somewhat softer position than the hardline anti-Ukraine aid stance taken by many Republicans on Capitol Hill — has shown an interesting light on the nature of GOP opposition to further Ukraine aid.

Which is to say, many of them are still against it, even if it's a loan.

"The loan idea doesn't get around the fundamental issue," said Sen. JD Vance of Ohio, who argued that the US simply doesn't have the manufacturing capacity to send aid to Israel, Ukraine, and Taiwan, no matter how it's financed. "We have to choose, and I would not choose Ukraine."

Also at stake is whether the loan is paid back. Graham has suggested that the loan could be waived — meaning there would be little difference from the current aid plan.

"I just think a loan ends up being a grant," said Rep. Tom Tiffany of Wisconsin.

Several Republicans, while acknowledging that a loan is more palatable than additional aid, argued that Ukraine would lack the resources to pay the loans back.

"I don't see Ukraine having anything unless they're gonna give us part of their country, and we don't want that," said Sen. Tommy Tuberville of Alabama. "I haven't voted to give them any money, so I'd really have to look at it."

"My question would be, what are you going to collect? You've got a war-torn country that basically doesn't have an economy," said Rep. Ralph Norman of South Carolina. "So how do you get paid back?"

Yet for Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, a supporter of Ukraine aid, the idea that the loan wouldn't be paid back is part of what makes him open to the idea.

"That's fine. It's a distinction without much difference because it's unlikely Ukraine would ever have to pay it back," said Romney. "If it has to be done as a loan to get it through the House, so be it."

Ultimately, the viability of such an idea would seem to hinge on whether Ukraine could pay back the aid.

"I don't know quite what to make of it," Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri said of the loan idea. "I mean, if they'll actually pay it back, then okay, that would be one thing. But I assume they won't, right? I mean, if they had the money, wouldn't they be spending it?"

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