US lawmakers who opposed or abstained on Iron Dome funding explain their vote

Many of those opposed blame rushed process, ignored procedures; some uncomfortable with high price tag; others point to Israeli ‘war crimes’

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

From Top L-R Reps. Jesus Garcia, Raul Grijalva, Rashida Tlaib, Thomas Massie, Andre Carson, Marie Newman, Cori Bush, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Hank Johnson. (Composite/AP)
From Top L-R Reps. Jesus Garcia, Raul Grijalva, Rashida Tlaib, Thomas Massie, Andre Carson, Marie Newman, Cori Bush, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Hank Johnson. (Composite/AP)

The Iron Dome Supplemental Appropriations Act passed overwhelmingly in the US House on Thursday, with 420 members voting in favor.

But there was a small minority of 11 lawmakers who chose to vote differently. Eight Democrats and one Republican voted against the HR 5323, while two more Democrats voted “present,” effectively abstaining.

Most of the 11 have subsequently explained their vote publicly or responded to requests on the matter with prepared statements.

Many of the opposing members cited what they saw as rushed and ignored procedures, while a smaller number pointed to what they described as Israeli human rights violations. Others expressed discomfort with the high cost of the funding — $1 billion — as many Americans struggle to recover financially from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (Michigan’s 13th District)

Tlaib was the only opponent to the Iron Dome funding bill who participated in the floor debate that preceded Thursday’s vote.

“I will not support an effort to enable war crimes and human rights abuses and violence. We cannot be talking only about Israelis’ need for safety at a time when Palestinians are living under a violent apartheid system, and are dying from what Human Rights Watch has said are war crimes,” she said.

Rep. Rashida Tlaib, Democrat-Michigan. (Alex Brandon/AP)

“The bill claims to be, quote, a ‘replenishment’ for weapons apartheid Israel used in a crisis it manufactured when it attacked worshipers at one of the most holiest Islamic locations, the Al-Aqsa Mosque, committing again numerous war crimes,” Tlaib claimed, making no mention of Hamas rocket-fire or what Israel Police said were the violent protests on the Temple Mount that led them to enter the mosque compound ahead of the May Gaza war.

Iron Dome, notably, is a defensive system used to protect civilians from rocket attacks by terror groups.

“Israel is an apartheid regime — [these are] not my words, but the words of Human Rights Watch and the words of Israel’s own human rights organization B’Tselem,” she said. “I urge my colleagues to please stand with me in supporting human rights for all.”

After her remarks, Republican Congressman Chuck Fleischmann and Democrat Ted Deutch rose one after the other to accuse Tlaib of antisemitism.

“To advocate for the dismantling of the one Jewish state in the world, when there’s no place on the map for one Jewish state, that’s antisemitism and I reject that,” Deutch said in a fiery counter-address.

On Friday, Tlaib issued another response, tweeting, “All the bipartisan attacks launched at me for speaking a factual truth about the apartheid system in Israel will not intimidate or silence this girl from Southwest Detroit.”

Rep. Ilhan Omar (Minnesota’s 5th District)

In a Twitter thread published shortly after voting against the bill, Omar wrote, “given the human rights violations in Gaza, [East Jerusalem’s] Sheikh Jarrah, and ever-growing settlement expansion, we should not be ramming through a last-minute $1 billion increase in military funding for Israel without any accountability.

“This vote is not about simply funding the Iron Dome. It’s about adding an extra billion dollars on top of the $73 million we already allocated this year. That’s 14 times more than we normally spend on it and 60% of what we’ve provided for it over the course of a decade,” she said.

“Those advocating for this have not made the case for why this enormous increase is necessary and why the US taxpayers have to fund it.”

Democratic Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota at the Capitol in Washington, March 11, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

“To be clear, any loss of life—whether Israeli or Palestinian—is an unspeakable tragedy. We should be doing everything in our power to end the violence and bring about peace. But this does nothing to actually bring us closer to peace.

“We continue to pay lip service to human rights, peace and a two-state solution. Yet we also continue to provide Israel with funding without addressing the underlying issue of the occupation,” Omar added.

“This is not about one country. If human rights are truly to guide our foreign policy, we need to act like it everywhere. Otherwise our words ring hollow.”

Rep. Ayanna Pressley (Massachusetts’s 7th District)

Pressley’s office issued the following statement to The Times of Israel upon request:

“Regrettably, my recent requests to expedite key bills to the floor to address the growing crises our communities face, and keep people safely housed have been denied. Each time, precedent and resource constraints have been cited as the rationale.

“And yet and still, House leadership had no problem advancing a standalone bill to provide $1B in additional military spending without advanced notice, without ample time for debate, and on the very same week the House already had another defense bill headed to the floor and a regular order process in place to debate and advance defense-related priorities through the National Defense Authorization Act.

Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., joins other progressive lawmakers to advocate for reimposing a nationwide eviction moratorium that lapsed last month, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

“I deeply want Israeli and Palestinian families to know true peace and safety. My wish for Israeli and Palestinian families and for my own family is the same — to not only survive but to thrive. I want the same for every family here in the United States and around the globe.

“It is Israel’s prerogative to protect its residents through the use of the Iron Dome, I take no issue with that responsibility or sacred task, it is one of the fundamental roles of a sovereign state. But this is not the way Congress should consider an unprecedented $1B in funding above and beyond what’s called for in the 2016 Memorandum of Understanding with Israel.

“If we can’t move with urgency on critical domestic spending in the midst of an unprecedented pandemic, there’s no reason we should move this way on military spending. I remain consistent in my commitment to working towards long overdue parity in our domestic and defense spending. I have made these process concerns abundantly clear with Caucus Leadership and I will be voting NO today.”

Rep. Cori Bush (Missouri’s 1st District)

Bush issued a single tweet explaining her decision, writing, “Palestinians deserve freedom from militarized violence too.

“We shouldn’t be sending an additional $1B to an apartheid state’s military. Especially not when we are failing to adequately invest in the health care, housing, education, and other social services our communities need,” she added.

In this Aug. 3, 2021, file photo Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., flanked by Rep. Al Green, D-Texas, left, and Rep. Jimmy Gomez, D-Calif., right, speaks to the press after it was announced that the Biden administration will enact a targeted nationwide eviction moratorium outside of Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Amanda Andrade-Rhoades, File)

Rep. Thomas Massie (Kentucky’s 4th District)

Massie was the lone Republican to oppose the Iron Dome funding, though several others who similarly oppose foreign defense aid funding in principal initially joined him, before flipping at the last minute.

Massie said in a tweet after the vote that he had voted against the funding bill out of concern for pushing the US further into debt.

“My position of ‘no foreign aid’ might sound extreme to some, but I think it’s extreme to bankrupt our country and put future generations of Americans in hock to our debtors,” he wrote.

In this Tuesday, May 28, 2019 file photo, Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., speaks to reporters at the Capitol after he blocked a unanimous consent vote on a long-awaited $19 billion disaster aid bill in the chamber. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

Rep. Andre Carson (Indiana’s 7th District)

Carson’s office did not respond to repeated requests for comment on the matter.

Rep. Andre Carson, D-Ind., speaks after receiving his Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine during the state’s first mass vaccination clinic at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Friday, March 5, 2021, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Rep. Marie Newman (Illinois’ 3rd District)

Newman’s office did not respond to repeated requests for comment on the matter.

In this Monday, March 9, 2020, file photo, Democrat Marie Newman campaigns in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast File)

Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García (Illinois’ 4th District)

Garcia’s office did not respond to repeated requests for comment on the matter.

Rep.-elect Jesus Garcia, D-Ill., walks outside after checking-in for orientation for new members of Congress, Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Rep. Raul Grijalva (Arizona’s 3rd District)

Grijalva’s office did not respond to repeated requests for comment on the matter.

Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz.,speaks as the House of Representatives debates the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2019. (House Television via AP)

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14)

Ocasio-Cortez, who had been instrumental in having the funding scrapped from separate government funding legislation earlier this week, initially voted against the standalone bill before deciding to abstain at the last minute.

She was visibly shaken after casting her final vote.

On Friday afternoon, her office sent a lengthy letter to constituents explaining her decision.

Like the other lawmakers who opposed the bill, Ocasio-Cortez noted that the $1 billion being asked from Congress was in addition to the tens of millions that Israel already receives on annual basis.

“I believe strongly that Congress should take greater scrutiny with all military funding across the world. I also believe that, for far too long, the US has handed unconditional aid to the Israeli government while doing nothing to address or raise the persistent human rights abuses against the Palestinian people, and that this imbalance of power must be centered in any honest conversation about Israel and Palestine,” she said.

Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York attends a news conference at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on June 16, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

“The reckless decision by House leadership to rush this controversial vote within a matter of hours and without true consideration created a tinderbox of vitriol, disingenuous framing, deeply racist accusations and depictions, and lack of substantive discussion on this matter,” the congresswoman added.

“Yes, I wept. I wept at the complete lack of care for the human beings that are impacted by these decisions, I wept at an institution choosing a path of maximum volatility and minimum consideration for its own political convenience.”

“And I wept at the complete lack of regard I often feel our party has to its most vulnerable and endangered members and communities – because the death threats and dangerous vitriol we’d inevitably receive by rushing such a sensitive, charged, and under-considered vote weren’t worth delaying it for even a few hours to help us do the work necessary to open a conversation of understanding,” she said,

But given her apparent full-throttled opposition to the bill, Ocasio-Cortez did not explain why she only voted to abstain, rather than oppose.

Rep. Hank Johnson (Georgia’s 4th District)

Johnson was the only other lawmaker to vote “present” and explained his reasoning in the following statement issued to The Times of Israel: “I supported the $3.8 billion in military assistance to Israel as agreed to by President Obama.

“An additional $1 billion on top of what US taxpayers have already paid for Israel’s Iron Dome defense constitutes about 60 percent of what the United States has provided for that specific defense allocation over the past decade.

Following a break, House Judiciary Committee member Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., talks to reporters during a closed-door session with former White House counsel Don McGahn, two years after House Democrats originally sought his testimony as part of investigations into former President Donald Trump, at the Capitol in Washington, Friday, June 4, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

“I don’t think the additional $1 billion is justified, particularly given the assessment that the former Israeli prime minister was the driving force behind the [Gaza] conflict, which gave rise to this exorbitant emergency request.”

Johnson did not explain why, given his opposition to the Iron Dome funding, he did not simply vote against it, rather than abstaining.

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