WASHINGTON — A day ahead of a government shutdown deadline, Congress scrambled on Thursday to wrap-up unfinished business, voting decisively to send President Barack Obama a defense policy bill, including more than $600 million for missile defense cooperation with Israel.
The Senate passed the defense legislation by a wide margin, 92-7, a week after the House overwhelmingly approved the measure, 375-34.
The legislation includes the approval of some $600.7 million for US-Israel missile defense cooperation for the 2017 fiscal year, with provisions specifically authorizing $268.7 million in research and development funding for US-Israel cooperative missile and rocket defense programs; $62 million for procurement of the Iron Dome rocket defense system; $150 million for procurement of the David’s Sling medium-range missile defense system; and $120 million for procurement of the Arrow-3 long-range missile defense system.
Some $10 million in additional funds are earmarked for US-Israel anti-tunnel cooperation.
The money is not part of the massive defense package agreement, also known as the memorandum of understanding, signed between the two countries earlier in the year. The new package will grant Israel $3.8 billion annually — up from the $3 billion pledged under the previous agreed-upon MOU — starting in 2018 and through 2028.
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee on Thursday welcomed the news, saying it “commends Congress for strongly bolstering US-Israel defense cooperation. These funds will help Israel defend its citizens against rocket and missile threats, and will further America’s own missile defense programs.”
The provisions, said AIPAC, “demonstrate Congress’ strong interest in addressing Iran’s malign behavior,” by “requiring a quarterly report describing any confirmed ballistic missile launches by Iran, along with efforts to impose sanctions in response,” and “requiring information on Iran’s cyber capabilities to be incorporated in the annual report on Iran’s military power, mandated under existing law.”
The bill rebuffs Obama’s quest to shutter the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; denies his bid to reduce the size of armed forces, and grants the troops a pay raise larger than the one their commander in chief recommended.
The government spending bill set for a vote in the House would keep the government running through April 28, along with $10 billion in supplemental war funding and $4 billion more for disaster relief for Louisiana and other states.
The hard-fought legislation also includes provisions to help Flint, Michigan, fix its lead-tainted water system and speed up next year’s confirmation for retired Gen. James Mattis as President-elect Donald Trump’s defense secretary.
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