JERUSALEM, Israel – House Democrats on Tuesday stripped $1 billion for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system from a bill to keep the US government funded and avert a shutdown.
The measure now goes to the Senate where it is expected to falter under heavy Republican opposition.
Historically, funding for the Iron Dome has rallied bipartisan support in Congress. The Iron Dome intercepts short-range rockets launched at Israeli citizens from terror groups in the Gaza Strip.
House Democrats originally included the $1 billion in their bill to raise the debt ceiling, but progressives threatened to tank the measure in a last-minute effort to cut military support for Israel. With time running out to avert a fiscal crisis and zero support from Republicans, Democratic leaders conceded to progressive demands and passed the measure without the Iron Dome clause.
However, Democrats are expected to approve the $1 billion in funds in a vote later this week.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro, Democratic chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee, assured colleagues that the money would be included in the annual defense spending bill.
"There is no interruption in funding for the Iron Dome," she said. "We are trying to make this seamless."
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer went further. He spoke with Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid Tuesday night and told him the removal of the Iron Dome clause from the government funding bill was a “technical postponement.”
Hoyer vowed to bring a bill to replenish the Iron Dome to the House floor this week.
“I intend to bring it to the floor and it will be done,” he said.
In a statement released by his office, Lapid thanked Hoyer for “his commitment and stressed the need to approve the request as quickly as possible to ensure Israel’s security needs.”
After Tuesday’s vote, Republicans quickly accused Democrats of undermining Israel’s security and vowed to support the Jewish State.
House Minority leader Kevin McCarthy tweeted: “Democrats just pulled funding from the Iron Dome — the missile defense system that has saved countless lives in Israel from Hamas’ rocket attacks. While Dems capitulate to the antisemitic influence of their radical members, Republicans will always stand with Israel.”
Notably, McCarthy and other House Republicans had planned to vote against the bill themselves, even with the Iron Dome clause included, citing concerns about uncontrolled government spending.
Norm Coleman, National Chairman of the Republican Jewish Coalition, said in a statement: “House Democrats should be ashamed of themselves. By cowardly caving to the Israel-hating wing of their party and blocking vital assistance to support our ally Israel.”
Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Betty McCollum, Ayanna Pressley, and Pramila Jayapal reportedly pushed Democratic leaders to remove the Iron Dome funding, a congressional aide told The Times of Israel. These lawmakers have long been critical of Israel and US support for the Israeli military.
New York Rep. Jamaal Bowman told Bloomberg that the problem was the Iron Dome clause had been added at the last minute, leaving no room for proper discussion.
“It’s not about Israel, it’s about, once again, leadership, throwing something on our table last minute and expecting us to decide in five minutes what to do with it, that’s the bigger problem,” Bowman said.
To explain the removal, a source familiar with the matter told The Times of Israel that lawmakers were concerned the Iron Dome clause "was being added to an unrelated bill to keep the government open, with zero strings attached.”
Nonetheless, pro-Israel advocates claimed progressive Democrats emboldened Palestinian terrorists.
“Extremists in Congress are playing politics with Israeli & Palestinian lives. Calling to remove funding for a lifesaving defensive system is an affront to our values, risks further conflict, and is counter to the commitment made by Biden & supported by Congressional leadership,” said the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in a statement.
“It’s simple: Iron Dome saves lives. Blocking funding for Iron Dome helps terrorists kill civilians,” it added.
Several Democrats also expressed concerns.
“Continued financial support of Iron Dome was part of the 2016 Memorandum of Understanding negotiated by President Obama,” said Rep. Elissa Slotkin of Michigan. “So, to target Iron Dome now means the issue isn’t a genuine concern over the system, but rather the desire to attack something - anything - related to the State of Israel; it’s devoid of substance and irresponsible.”
Rep. Ritchie Torres of New York tweeted: “A missile defense system (i.e. Iron Dome) defends civilians from missiles. Hence the name. Only in a morally inverted universe would this be considered a “controversy.”
Rep. Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey said the Iron Dome “protects innocent civilians in Israel from terrorist attacks and some of my colleagues have now blocked funding it. We must stand by our historic ally — the only democracy in the Middle East.”
The Biden administration has long expressed support for Israel’s right to defend itself. US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met with Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz in June and shared plans to restock Israel’s Iron Dome system following its 11-day war with Gaza terrorists in May.
President Joe Biden also vowed to bolster the Iron Dome, despite calls by progressives against it.