Senate appoves $225m. Iron Dome funding, ball in House’s court

Legislative session extends past original recess date; senators voice strong support for Israel following soldier’s kidnapping

Rebecca Shimoni Stoil is the Times of Israel's Washington correspondent.

An Iron Dome interceptor rocket flies above the Tel Aviv skyline (photo credit: Matanya Tausig/Flash 90)
An Iron Dome interceptor rocket flies above the Tel Aviv skyline (photo credit: Matanya Tausig/Flash 90)

WASHINGTON — In a session that extended beyond the Thursday date for Congressional recess, the Senate gave unanimous consent to advance emergency legislation to provide Israel with an additional $225 million in funding for the Iron Dome missile defense system. Although Senators failed to reach an agreement on the additional budget late Thursday night, the Senate convened Friday morning to try again – and succeeded.

“This is a good example of us putting aside partisan considerations,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said after his party worked with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to pass the funding.

The bill will now go to the House, which has delayed its recess until it passes key immigration legislation. The Republican-controlled House is likely to pass the Senate bill in the coming days or even hours.

Israel requested an additional $225 million for the partially US-funded project, which is credited with saving dozens, possibly hundreds, of lives, but partisan ploys had threatened to prevent Congress from approving the funding before it adjourned for a month-long recess.

An Iron Dome battery outside Haifa (photo credit: Avishag Shaar Yashuv/Flash90)
An Iron Dome battery outside Haifa (photo credit: Avishag Shaar Yashuv/Flash90)

Israeli defense sources did not give Congress a specific time frame regarding the urgency of the additional allocation, but Iron Dome intercepts over the course of Operation Protective Edge have likely cost Israel tens of millions of dollars.

Last week, a frustrated Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) suggested the solution finally adopted Friday, saying that if the funding was presented as a stand-alone bill, the Senate “could take up $225 million on the floor of the Senate by unanimous consent today.

“It would pass without objection,” he argued – which was the ultimate outcome.

When the funding was initially presented as a near-stand-alone late Thursday, the measure had not passed.

Senate Majority Leader Reid finally acquiesced to split the funding, together with $615 million to fight wildfires from the immigration budget. Republicans, however, rejected that move as well. Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) indicated that he would not approve such a measure, while Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) suggested a compromise to offset the combined total of $840 million in additional spending with spending cuts to the United Nations and other international organizations.

Reid, in turn, rejected Coburn’s suggestion.

Ultimately, though, the funding went through on Friday.

AIPAC quickly issued a statement commending the Senate for its emergency action.

“In the wake of Hamas’ firing of over 2,600 rockets against the Jewish state, the Senate gave its approval to $225 million in additional funding for the current fiscal year, acting expeditiously on a request from the Israeli government that was submitted to Congress by the Administration,” the organization wrote, noting the cooperation among the often-fractious branches of government.

“AIPAC applauds the bipartisan leadership of the Obama Administration, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) , Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) , Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Senator John McCain (R-AZ) in ensuring that these essential funds were expedited at this critical moment,” the statement continued, urging the House to quickly pass the legislation.

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