US House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said Tuesday the $1 billion funding of Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system would be brought for a separate vote this week after it was left off a government spending bill.
Speaking on the House floor, Hoyer said he would bring the replenishing of Iron Dome as a standalone vote later this week. The announcement was made amid pressure from pro-Israel Democratic Reps. Ted Deutch, Kathy Manning, Josh Gottheimer, Ritchie Torres, Brad Schneider and others who were livid over the decision to leave the funding for Israel’s defense off the spending bill.
“It is my intention to bring to this floor a suspension bill before the end of this week that will fund fully Iron Dome. I was for that. I’m still for it, we ought to do it,” said Hoyer. “I talked to the foreign minister, Mr. Lapid, just two hours ago and assured him that bill was going to pass this House.”
“I intend to bring it to the floor and it will be done,” he added.
A suspension bill is an accelerated procedure that requires a bill be approved by two thirds of the members present, or a unanimous oral vote. The Senate will then have to adopt it.
On Tuesday night, after removing the Iron Dome provision, the House voted to fund the government into early December, suspend the federal debt limit and provide disaster and refugee aid, setting up a high-stakes showdown with Republicans who oppose the package despite the prospects of a looming fiscal crisis. The Democratic-led House passed the measure by a vote of 220-211, strictly along party lines. The bill now goes to the Senate, where it is likely to falter because of overwhelming GOP opposition.
The decision to strike the Iron Dome funding from the bill, following pressure from progressives, drew criticism from some US Jewish groups. Israel, however, downplayed the development.
Hoyer’s announcement came after he spoke to Foreign Minister Yair Lapid on Tuesday night. During the phone call, Lapid was reassured that the move was a “technical delay” related to discussions over the US debt ceiling and that the defense funding would be approved at a later date, the foreign minister said in a statement.
Hoyer underlined his commitment to Israel’s security, emphasizing that it was a view shared by the White House and Democrat House and Senate leaders, while pledging that the Iron Dome funding would soon be allocated, the Foreign Ministry said.
“Minister Lapid thanked Majority Leader Hoyer for his commitment and stressed the need to approve the request as quickly as possible to ensure Israel’s security needs,” his office said.
Israeli officials, speaking to Axios on condition of anonymity, blamed the development on the previous Israeli governments led by Benjamin Netanyahu, accusing the former prime minister of harming American bipartisan support for Israel.
The funds for the Iron Dome are widely expected to be approved at a later date. A Congressional aide, speaking to The Times of Israel on condition of anonymity earlier on Tuesday, insisted that the Iron Dome funding would eventually be approved, but instead would be attached to the 2022 Defense Appropriations Bill.
The clause approving the huge sum to restock Israel’s Iron Dome interceptors — crucial to protecting Israeli towns from rocket attacks and which became somewhat depleted during May’s Gaza war — had caused a hangup in the House of Representatives, as party leaders sought to push forward a bill to raise the debt ceiling.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had to pass the bill by September 30 to keep the government funded through the start of December. She needed all hands on deck to pass the budgetary bill, and could not afford to lose progressive votes because no Republican was willing to support it. Pelosi may have calculated that adding the Iron Dome funding would be a way to entice Republicans, but this did not bring any onboard.
A Congress member told The Times of Israel that Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Betty McCollum pushed Pelosi to have the Iron Dome funding removed from the spending bill and managed to succeed through mediation by Congresswoman Rosa Delauro.
Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley and Pramila Jayapal also threatened to vote against the bill if the Iron Dome funding was included, a Congressional aid said.
New York Rep. Jamaal Bowman told Bloomberg that the problem was that the Iron Dome provision had been added in at the last minute, and that there had been no 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.
A Congressional aide from Bowman’s office later clarified to ToI that the his remark was referring to the procedure, not the content of the provision, adding that the quote was taken out of context to suggest he opposed funding for Iron Dome.
Explaining the reasoning behind some in the progressive caucus’s refusal to back the funding, a source familiar with the matter told The Times of Israel, “It was being added to an unrelated bill to keep the government open, with zero strings attached.”
Several Democratic congressmen expressed frustration over the removal of Iron Dome funds.
Rep. Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey said that the system “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.”
Rep. Ted Deutch of Florida said that the “Iron Dome is a defensive system used by one of our closest allies to save civilian lives. It needs to be replenished because thousands of rockets were fired by the Hamas terrorists who control Gaza. Consider this my pushing back against this decision.”
Rep. Ritchie Torres 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.'”
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.” https://t.co/z8moIdqWg1
— Rep. Ritchie Torres (@RepRitchie) September 21, 2021
Congressman Brad Schneider of Illinois vowed to make sure Iron Dome gets funded this year.
“Israel has a new government with the broadest imaginable governing coalition, including Arab parties. Israelis and Palestinians are talking to each other again. The Abraham Accords are changing the dynamic of the entire region. All progress starts with and depends on security. And security relies on Iron Dome funding.”
Meanwhile, Republicans lambasted Democrats, with party officials saying that their rivals had succumbed to pressure rooted in antisemitism.
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.”
BREAKING → 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.
— Kevin McCarthy (@GOPLeader) September 21, 2021
Sen. Ted Cruz wrote: “Tragic. Dem leadership surrenders to the anti-Semitic Left. They hate Israel so much that Dems are stripping $1 BILLION in funding for Iron Dome — a purely defensive system that protects countless innocent civilians from Hamas rockets. Will any Dems have the courage to denounce?”
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.
— AIPAC (@AIPAC) September 21, 2021
Notably, McCarthy and other House Republicans had planned to vote against the bill themselves.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke of plans to replenish Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile batteries in June, after meeting with Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz on the matter.
President Joe Biden also pledged to replenish Israel’s stock, bucking calls from some progressive lawmakers to reduce military aid to Israel.
At the time, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said: “Iron Dome performed incredibly well, saving thousands of Israeli lives and tens of thousands of Palestinian lives. I would imagine that the administration would say yes to this request and it will sail through Congress.”
Hamas and other Gazan terrorists fired over 4,300 rockets at Israel during May’s flare-up of fighting, according to the IDF, which said the pace of fire was the highest ever.
According to the military, 90% of the missiles fired at populated areas within Israel were downed by Iron Dome.
AP contributed to this report.