Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., prefers a separate vote on extra funding for the Iron Dome system for Israel. (Larry French/ / Getty Images)
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WASHINGTON — Congressional Republicans want to force Democrats into voting on a stand-alone measure to send $225 million in emergency funds to Israel for its Iron Dome missile defense system.
Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., on Tuesday morning formally brought forward a $3.5 billion supplemental spending bill crafted by Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md. Her measure would include $225 million for Iron Dome, as well as billions of dollars for the US-Mexico border crisis and to fight forest fires here at home.
But CongressWatch confirmed earlier Tuesday that the House’s Republican-crafted version of the border crisis spending bill excludes any Iron Dome funds.
Senate Republicans said they oppose the House’s move only if GOP leaders opt against moving an Iron Dome bill before Congress adjourns on Thursday or Friday.
Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, the Senate Armed Services Committee ranking member, was asked by CongressWatch if Republicans want to force Senate Democratic leaders into stripping Iron Dome funding from the bigger $3.5 billion supplemental.
“We do, so we don’t have to take all of the Obama programs that we don’t like to get the Iron Dome,” Inhofe said during a brief interview.
He was referring to White House-proposed measures in the Senate Appropriations Committee-crafted version of the supplemental measure that are intended to help with the US-Mexico border crisis.
Inhofe, in a view shared by many Republicans, accused Obama of “throwing money away on the border.”
Senate Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told reporters that he is “confident” the party will get its wish for an Iron Dome-only vote before week’s end.
The House is expected to begin final votes on its pre-recess supplemental — or perhaps, supplementals — first. GOP leaders there also began ramping up the pressure on Senate Democratic leaders before their upper chamber colleagues.
A senior House aide with knowledge of the ongoing supplemental and Iron Dome talks was coy Tuesday morning about the lower chamber’s plans for what promises to be an action-packed final week before recess.
About getting Israel funds to begin production of new Iron Dome interceptors, the House aide said Appropriations Committee Chairman Rep. 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.
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.”
Senate Armed Services Committee member Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., called the Iron Dome issue “a matter of life-and-death” as Israel clashes with Hamas.
Graham said he intends to vote no on Wednesday when the chamber will vote to end debate on Mikulski’s three-part supplemental.
He urged Democrats and Republicans to “stop playing games” and “rise to the occasion” by passing “a stand-alone [Israel] proposition.”
Senate Democrats continue to insist on both chambers passing Mikulski’s three-part emergency bill.
Reid 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.
But as Tuesday wore on, there were signs Democrats — as eager to get out of town Thursday as Republicans — soon could become amenable to breaking it into two or three parts, including an Iron Dome-only measure.
“Of course supporting a treasured ally like Israel” is a priority, Mikulski told reporters. “But we can’t just fund Iron Dome by itself. I would prefer if we did it all together.
“I am pressing forward,” Mikulski vowed, before cracking open the door to busting her bill into separate pieces, especially since sources say there aren’t 60 Democratic and Republican votes to end debate on her measure.
“Now, we will see where we are tomorrow,” she said with a grin. “Every day is a new day. Every hour is a new hour. Let’s hope it is not sour.” ■