(October 1, 2021 / JNS) Assistance funding for Israel’s Iron Dome air-defense system was temporarily delayed in the U.S. Senate this week when it appeared as a sidenote to the Senate’s fight to avert a government shutdown.
While working on passing a Continuing Resolution (CR) funding bill, Senate leaders attempted to “hotline” a standalone bill that was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives last week to provide $1 billion in additional funds for Iron Dome interceptors. “Hotlining” is a process in which the bill is emailed to senators’ offices asking if they would be willing to approve it without a vote. It requires unanimous consent from every senator.
The attempt failed with one senator, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who opposed the bill because the funds were not offset with spending cuts, according to Politico.
A spokesperson for Paul, who is a critic of foreign aid, told Politico that the senator is proposing offsetting the cost by cutting aid to Afghanistan.
While the hotline effort failed, the bill is still on track to go through the Senate in the coming days in a regular legislative process and is expected to pass overwhelmingly.
While Paul’s stance does little to prevent the bill from eventually passing, his decision drew criticism from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
“Blocking emergency funding to ensure Israel can protect its citizens from terrorist rockets rewards Hamas and undermines America’s interests [and] values,” AIPAC tweeted on Thursday. “@RandPaul, stand with our ally Israel, not with anti-Israel House members like [Reps. Rashida] Tlaib [(D-Mich.)], [Ilhan] Omar [(D-Minn.), and Thomas] Massie [(R-Ky.)], who also opposed this bill.”
On Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) proposed an alternative short-term funding bill that did not raise the nation’s debt ceiling, It included Iron Dome funding, which was removed from the funding bill in the House after objections from the House Progressive Caucus, though the proposal did not advance.
The standalone Iron Dome bill passed the House in a bipartisan 420-9 vote on Sept. 23, opposed by eight left-wing Democrats and one fiscal conservative Republican.
‘An important defense tool that saves civilian lives’
Jewish Federations of North America applauded the passage and sent an action alert to its constituents to thank members who voted for it.
“The Iron Dome is an important defense tool that saves civilian lives,” said JFNA senior vice president for public affairs Elana Broitman. “It’s important to Jewish Federations and our communities that this legislation, which has overwhelming bipartisan support, be approved and sent to the president’s desk for signature in short order.”
Shoshana Bryen, senior director of the Jewish Policy Center, said she believes that funding for Iron Dome should have been its own bill and not part of a general funding bill.
“I think there is an opportunity to get the Senate to be on record about how it feels about the security of Israel and defensive systems,” she said. “Could they have stuck it in the CR? I suppose. … It is Iran who benefits by Israel not getting the additional funds for Iron Dome because Iran is funding Hezbollah, Iran is funding Hamas—all this stuff benefits Iran.
“There is utility in having the Senate of the United States say, ‘No, we’re voting a defensive system for Israel’ because A, Israel is our ally; B, because it’s defensive; and C, because it will give the Iranians hives, they won’t like it, and that’s fine.”
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