A missile is launched by an Iron Dome battery in the southern Israeli city of Ashdod last week. House Republican leaders have opted against including additional funds for the Israeli missile defense system in the version of the border spending bill the lower chamber might vote on later this week, a senior House aide said. (DAVID BUIMOVITCH/AFP)
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WASHINGTON — The House this week could take up an emergency spending bill to address the US-Mexico border crisis, but it will not include funds for an Israeli missile defense program.
The Senate could act this week on a $3.5 billion supplemental that contains $225 million the Pentagon and Israeli leaders say is needed to begin replenishing that country’s Iron Dome interceptor missiles. Israeli officials say the system has saved countless lives in recent weeks by swatting away Hamas rockets fired from Gaza.
But House Republican leaders have opted against including the funds in the version of the border spending bill the lower chamber might vote on later this week, before leaving for a five-week recess.
“The supp doesn’t contain Iron Dome funding,” a senior House aide told CongressWatch on Tuesday morning.
The move is surprising considering how much support there is among Republican voters for Israel — especially in its renewed conflict with Hamas.
A recent Pew Research Center poll found large numbers of Republicans support Israel in this new conflict with Hamas. Pew found 73 percent of Republicans have more sympathy for Israel than for Palestinians. Only 44 percent of Democrats shared that stance.
About getting Israel funds to begin production of new Iron Dome interceptors, the House aide said Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky., “hopes it can be addressed soon.”
But just how, if not as part of the broader border supplemental, and when, if not this week, remains unclear as lawmakers try to finish a number of items before leaving town on Thursday.
The aide did not tip the Republicans’ hand, saying only that Rogers “supports the funding, and he hopes that the issue can be dealt with before the break.”
Over in the Senate, there is bipartisan support for the $225 million.
“Republicans are united in support of our ally Israel,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said last Thursday. “We have legislation that would allow Congress to meet [Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s request for additional Iron Dome funding]. And we hope our friends on the other side will join us in coming to a sensible, bipartisan solution that can be passed quickly.”
McConnell wants to break out the Iron Dome funding into a stand-alone bill that could be quickly passed this week by both chambers.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., favors the catch-all supplemental written by the Appropriations Committee. But on Monday, he floated the idea of passing three emergency spending bills this week, including one just featuring the Israeli missile money.
“Leaving here with Israel being naked as they are,” Reid said on the Senate floor, “would be a shame if we did nothing.”
The Iron Dome system is built by Israeli companies Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and Israel Aerospace Industries, and many US lawmakers and officials want Boeing to soon begin co-production of the system. ■