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Refusing to ‘hotline’ Iron Dome bill, Republican slows its passage in Senate

Rand Paul, who opposes foreign assistance of all kinds, blocks Upper House version of bill passed by House from going straight to a vote; but it’s still expected to pass

Senator Rand Paul, speaks during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on the nomination of Miguel Cardona to be education secretary on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, February 3, 2021, in Washington. (Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times via AP)
Senator Rand Paul, speaks during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on the nomination of Miguel Cardona to be education secretary on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, February 3, 2021, in Washington. (Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times via AP)

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Rand Paul, the Republican senator from Kentucky, is the latest lawmaker to get in the way of $1 billion in new assistance to Israel to replenish its Iron Dome anti-missile system.

Paul on Thursday revealed himself to be the single senator refusing to “hotline” the bill now that it has been approved by the US House of Representatives. “Hotlining” is when all 100 senators agree to allow a bill to go straight to the floor for a vote, substantially accelerating the process.

Paul is one of the most outspoken opponents of foreign assistance, and for a period a number of years ago proposed eliminating assistance to Israel. Now, a spokesperson for Paul told Politico that Paul will drop his objection to the Iron Dome hotlining if the $1 billion comes from proposed assistance to Afghanistan.

Paul’s stand is the latest wrinkle in a funding request that has roiled Congress. Progressives last week squelched a plan by the Democratic leadership in the House to slip the money into an unrelated emergency stopgap government funding bill, saying the last-minute inclusion undercut congressional conventions.

Instead, the Democratic leadership advanced the funding in a standalone bill, which the House approved after a brief debate. The standalone bill passed overwhelmingly, including among progressives in the Democratic caucus.

Israel asked for the $1 billion, which is in addition to $500 million the Iron Dome gets each year, to replenish supplies after Israel’s Gaza conflict in May.

Final tally of the House vote on Iron Dome funding bill, September 23, 2021. (Screen capture/C-SPAN)

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee on Twitter urged Paul to “stand with our ally Israel.”

“Blocking emergency funding to ensure Israel can protect its citizens from terrorist rockets rewards Hamas and undermines America’s interests & values,” the lobby said.

The bill is still expected to pass the Senate overwhelmingly, and a vote could still be held in the coming days.

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