JERUSALEM, Israel – Republican Senator Rand Paul on Monday blocked an attempt by the US Senate to fast-track $1 billion in funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system.
Democrat Bob Menendez, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman, brought the Iron Dome funding bill to the Senate floor on Monday to be approved by unanimous consent after the House overwhelmingly voted to advance the measure earlier this month. Approving the funding unanimously would have expedited its passage and allowed lawmakers to skip formal debate.
All Democrat and Republican Senators consented to fast-tracking the bill except Paul. The Kentucky Senator proposed his own version of the bill, which requires that the Iron Dome funding come from $6 billion in proposed assistance to Afghanistan.
“We’re offering to fully fund the billion dollars for the Iron Dome with money that could possibly be used to go to the Taliban. We think that’s the fiscally responsible thing to do,” Paul told POLITICO.
“Only an economically strong United States can be a militarily strong ally of Israel,” Paul said on the floor. “I support Israel; I've voted for hundreds of millions of dollars to support Iron Dome. I'm glad the United States has a strong bond with Israel, but the United States cannot give money it does not have no matter how strong our relationship is.”
Menendez shot back, saying there was “no reason” for Paul to block the bill.
“There is no conceivable reason why anyone in this chamber on either side of the aisle should stand in the way of US support for this lifesaving defense to be fully ready for the next attack,” the New Jersey lawmaker said. “I strongly urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to join the House of Representatives in passing this funding on a broadly bipartisan effort.”
Menendez said Paul’s counter-proposal would hurt US foreign policy by rescinding humanitarian aid to the Afghan people. He also refuted Paul’s claim that the money would go to the Taliban.
“Let me be clear, and echo what the Administration has said: No US foreign aid will go to a Taliban-controlled Afghan government. This does not mean that we remain any less committed to supporting the Afghan people,” he said on the floor.
The Iron Dome funding is still expected to pass in the Senate and will be sent to President Joe Biden’s desk. The president has already said he will approve the measure.
Pro-Israel groups criticized Paul after the session.
“Iron Dome is a matter of life and death for Israelis and Palestinians, and Senator Paul, true to form, is treating the replenishment of this vital system as a political game,” said CUFI founder and Chairman Pastor John Hagee. “Whatever concerns he has on other issues should be addressed in a manner that does not put innocent lives at risk,” Hagee said. “The legislation he is blocking advanced through the House of Representatives with overwhelming bipartisan support. Senator Paul needs to stop playing games with the safety of the Israeli people.”
AIPAC also condemned the senator. "Today, Rand Paul joined Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Thomas Massie in not supporting emergency funding for Iron Dome," AIPAC tweeted. "Their objections to funding Iron Dome undermine Israel’s security, cost innocent lives, make war more likely, and embolden Iran-backed terrorists."
Earlier this month, several progressive Democrats in the House opposed approving the Iron Dome funding. Democrats removed it from a government spending package and passed it overwhelmingly in a separate measure.
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