2021-09-24 02:04:24 House Approves Funding for Israel’s Iron Dome

House Approves Funding for Israel’s Iron Dome

WASHINGTON (AP) — After a debate that exposed bitter divisions among Democrats over the United States’ policy toward one of its closest allies, the House overwhelmingly approved $1 billion in new funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system on Thursday.

The vote was 420 to 9 to assist Israel in replacing missile interceptors used during heavy fighting in a devastating rocket and missile war with the Palestinians in May, reflecting the long-standing bipartisan support in Congress for Jerusalem.

However, the lopsided vote came only after days of squabbles between progressives who have accused Israel of human rights violations and other lawmakers, including party leaders, who said they were shocked and appalled by their colleagues’ refusal to fund a defense system to protect Israeli civilians.

Bitter recriminations over the bill erupted on the House floor on Thursday, with opponents labeling Israel a “apartheid state” and supporters accusing opponents of antisemitism. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, a vocal critic of Israel who had faced scathing criticism from pro-Israel activists for refusing to support the bill, was in tears by the end after switching her “no” vote to “present.”

The exchange was the latest flare-up in a long-simmering feud between an energized new generation of progressive Democrats, many of whom are people of color, who have demanded an end to conditionless aid to Israel and others in the party who argue that the US must not waver in its support for Israel’s right to defend itself. The internal strife comes as a growing number of Democrats in Washington, prodded by the party’s left flank, say they are no longer willing to give Israel a pass for its treatment of Palestinians, a shift that has alarmed top Israeli officials.

The tensions erupted at an inopportune time for the Democratic Party, as it works to bridge internal divisions over domestic policy in order to save President Biden’s agenda.

The conflict began this week, when progressives reacted angrily to the inclusion of Iron Dome funding in an emergency spending bill, effectively threatening to shut down the government rather than support the funding. Democratic leaders were forced to remove it from the bill that passed the House on Tuesday and hold a separate vote to approve the Iron Dome funding.

“I will not support an effort to enable war crimes, human rights violations, and violence,” said Rashida Tlaib, a Democrat from Michigan, on Thursday. “We cannot talk only about Israelis’ need for safety at a time when Palestinians are living under a violent apartheid system and dying as a result of war crimes, as Human Rights Watch has stated.”

Many other Democrats were outraged by the liberals’ maneuver, saying their colleagues’ opposition to funding Israel’s defense was out of line. They noted that during the height of the fighting in May, the Iron Dome intercepted more than 90% of Hamas-launched rockets that would have otherwise landed in civilian-populated areas.

Learn About the Infrastructure Bill
A trillion-dollar package was approved.
On August 10, the Senate passed a broad bipartisan infrastructure package, capping weeks of intense negotiations and debate over the nation’s aging public works system, the largest federal investment in more than a decade.
The last vote. The final Senate vote was 69 in favor to 30 against. The legislation, which still needs to be approved by the House, would affect nearly every aspect of the American economy and strengthen the country’s response to global warming.
Spending priorities.
Overall, the bipartisan plan prioritizes transportation, utilities, and pollution reduction.
Transportation. Around $110 billion would be allocated to roads, bridges, and other transportation projects, $25 billion to airports, and $66 billion to railways, giving Amtrak the most funding since its inception in 1971.
Utilities. Senators have also included $65 billion to connect hard-to-reach rural communities to high-speed internet while also assisting low-income city dwellers who cannot afford it, as well as $8 billion for Western water infrastructure.
Pollution cleanup: Approximately $21 billion would be spent on cleaning up abandoned wells and mines, as well as Superfund sites.

Representative Ted Deutch, a Democrat from Florida, said in an angry speech that he would not allow “one of my colleagues to stand on the floor of the House of Representatives and label the Jewish democratic state of Israel an apartheid state.”

“To falsely characterize the state of Israel is consistent with those who advocate for the abolition of the world’s only Jewish state,” he said. “When there is no room on the map for a single Jewish state, that is antisemitism, and I reject it.”

Despite the uproar, only eight Democrats and one Republican, Kentucky’s Representative Thomas Massie, voted against the bill.

Ms. Ocasio-Cortez huddled with her allies in a tearful huddle minutes before the vote closed before switching her vote to “present.” The tableau demonstrated how difficult the vote was for even outspoken progressives, who were caught between their principles and the party’s still powerful pro-Israel voices, such as influential lobbyists and rabbis. (A spokesperson for Ms. Ocasio-Cortez declined to comment on her decision.)

Representative Hank Johnson of Georgia, another Democrat, voted present.

Privately, some progressive lawmakers were enraged with Maryland Representative Steny H. Hoyer, the No. 2 Democrat, who pushed for the vote on Iron Dome funding after it was removed from the larger spending bill this week.

His move appeared to be intended to calm Israeli officials, who had been watching the fight on Capitol Hill with bated breath and had closely followed previous efforts by young, liberal lawmakers to cut off US military aid to Israel.

Biden’s Budget for 2022

The federal government’s fiscal year 2022 begins on October 1, and President Biden has revealed how much money he wants to spend beginning then. However, any spending must be approved by both chambers of Congress. The following is a list of the plan’s components:

Total spending goals: President Biden wants the federal government to spend $6 trillion in the fiscal year 2022, and total spending to reach $8.2 trillion by 2031. This would result in the United States having its highest sustained levels of federal spending since World War II, while running deficits of more than $1.3 trillion over the next decade.
Infrastructure plan: The budget outlines the president’s desired first year of investment in his American Jobs Plan, which seeks to fund road, bridge, and public transit improvements totaling $2.3 trillion over eight years.
Families plan: The budget also addresses Biden’s other major spending proposal, the American Families Plan, which aims to strengthen the United States’ social safety net by expanding access to education, lowering the cost of child care, and assisting women in the labor force.
Mandatory programs: As is customary, mandatory spending on programs such as Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare accounts for a sizable portion of the proposed budget. They are becoming more prevalent as America’s population ages.
Discretionary spending: Funding for the individual budgets of the executive branch’s agencies and programs would total around $1.5 trillion in 2022, a 16 percent increase over the previous budget.
How Biden would pay for it: The president would fund his agenda primarily by raising taxes on corporations and the wealthy, which would begin to reduce budget deficits in the 2030s. Tax increases, according to administration officials, would fully offset the jobs and families plans over a 15-year period, which the budget request backs up. Meanwhile, the budget deficit would continue to exceed $1.3 trillion each year.

According to an account of the call released by Mr. Lapid’s office, after Yair Lapid, Israel’s minister of foreign affairs, called Mr. Hoyer and emphasized the importance of the House approving the request as soon as possible, the congressman assured him that the progressives’ initial outrage was nothing more than a “technical delay.” Mr. Hoyer later announced that the House would vote on the funding later this week.

Other top Democrats, including California Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, spoke out in favor of the bill on Thursday. They argued that approving the additional funding was critical to protecting Israeli civilians, and that it was a continuation of a deal struck by President Barack Obama in 2016.

“This bill demonstrates Congress’ bipartisan and unwavering commitment to our friend and ally Israel,” Ms. DeLauro said. “It satisfies our moral obligation to protect the lives of innocent civilians while also laying the groundwork for peace.”

However, progressive critics slammed Israel’s behavior and argued that Congress’ strong support for the country should end. Representative Ilhan Omar, a Democrat from Minnesota, stated that the US should no longer provide funding to Israel “without addressing the underlying issue of the occupation.”

“This isn’t about a single country,” she explained. “If human rights are to truly guide our foreign policy, we must act accordingly everywhere. Otherwise, our words will be meaningless.”

House Republicans, looking for a way to sway Jewish voters away from the Democratic Party, framed the incident as an attack on Israel. They claimed that progressives’ refusal to allow the funding to pass as part of the larger spending bill was a missed opportunity to support Israel, despite Republican opposition to the measure as a whole.

“By obstructing funding to resupply the Iron Dome, Democrats chose to forego an opportunity to stand with Israel and its citizens,” said Louisiana Representative Steve Scalise, the No. 2 Republican.

Reporting was contributed by Luke Broadwater.

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House Approves Funding for Israel's Iron Dome