A missile is launched by an Iron Dome battery, a missile defense system designed to intercept and destroy incoming short-range rockets and artillery shells, in the southern Israeli city of Ashdod on July 18. (David Buimovitch/AFP/Getty Images)
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WASHINGTON — One senior House Democrat says including millions for an Israeli missile defense program in a broader spending bill could delay — or even kill — the funds.
As it races for the airport later this week for a five-week recess, Congress could attempt to pass a sweeping supplemental spending bill that would cover the US-Mexico border crisis, domestic forest fires, and $225 million for Israel’s Iron Dome missile interceptor program.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., has crafted a $3.5 billion supplemental bill that covers all those issues. House appropriators are preparing their own version, which could be up to $1 billion smaller.
But many in the House Republican caucus want their leadership to add immigration provisions that would alter a 2008 law, a change Democrats in both chambers strongly oppose.
The size and content of whatever the House might pass this week could make it dead in arrival in the Senate. And over in the upper chamber, Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told reporters last week that he needs “help” from Senate Republicans to get to the necessary 60 votes to pass the Mikulski supplemental because several Democrats are opposed to that bill.
Members who want to get the extra $225 million to Israeli officials as soon as possible are growing concerned.
“I’m not sure how it’s going to work. I still believe what’s going on on the border, however you feel about it, is going to require more resources,” House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Adam Smith, D-Wash., told CongressWatch last Friday. “Something will have to be done. I do worry that if they try to tie it in with all of this other stuff, it won’t go through.”
Smith wants the House to continue “trying to operate off the Mikulski bill.” For now, he is not ready to embrace a plan put forth late last week by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., which would break out the Iron Dome funding into its own bill.
“I think we can” pass something similar to the Mikulski-crafted supplemental, he said. “We should.”
Still, Smith acknowledged the current approach might be too difficult with only a few days to go before a five-week legislative lull.
“I still think we try and work this deal,” Smith said. “But, yes, we may have to look to another approach.”
House Deputy Republican Whip Tom Cole, a senior Appropriations Committee member, told reporters on Friday that the House supplemental likely would be around $1.5 billion.
The Oklahoma congressman bristled at questions about whether a supplemental of that size would be killed by his GOP tea party colleagues, who want additional sizable federal spending cuts.
“I don’t think there’s any substantive, physical objections to this,” Cole said. “We’re just talking about re-prioritizing money and shifting it to what’s clearly a crisis situation on the border.”
He added that “the money is offset this year,” meaning cut from other parts of the federal budget.
Cole also batted away questions about whether failure to pass funding for the border crisis and Iron Dome might hurt Republicans at the polls in November. Cole contends it would be a bigger political problem for Democrats “if we don’t do it.” ■