(Jacquelyn Martin/The Associated Press)
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WASHINGTON — In a dramatic reversal, the US House and Senate on Friday approved a measure to send $225 million to Israel to replenish its Iron Dome missile interceptors.
After killing the funding several times during dramatic moments on the Senate floor Thursday evening, the upper chamber approved it as a stand-alone measure Friday morning. A senior House aide later Friday told CongressWatch that House GOP leaders were searching for a legislative “avenue” to follow suit.
After the House adjourned for several hours on Friday, leaders announced a set of votes -- including on Iron Dome.
The House approved. 395-8, the $225 million late on Friday just before finally leaving for a five-week recess period.
Neither chamber was supposed to be in town Friday. But the extra day before a five-week recess period gave the Iron Dome funding, requested by Tel Aviv and the Pentagon, new life for approval before September.
The chamber’s GOP leaders kept the House in session on Friday while they searched for ample Republican votes for a $659 million border-crisis supplemental.
Republicans in both chambers all week made veiled comments about using emergency funds to send Israel its requested missile aid.
“I always come at things by asking if they’re paid for,” Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., told CongressWatch a few hours before the Senate’s supplemental hit the floor on Thursday.
A few minutes earlier, Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, told reporters he would prefer if the Iron Dome funds “were paid for.”
On the Senate floor Thursday night, Cornyn and Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., repeatedly objected to several attempts by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev, to pass an Iron Dome measure.
It appeared dead — at least before the August recess.
But after a night of talks, Reid — with the help of Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. — found a way to pass the Iron Dome measure.
“I appreciate the bipartisan agreement we reached this morning to pass Iron Dome funding,” Reid’s office tweeted from his official account Friday.
Earlier in the week, despite leaving out the Iron Dome funding in the House border-crisis supplemental, an aide to Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky., said he “supports” the Iron Dome funds.
On Friday, another GOP leadership aide told CongressWatch that House GOP leaders are “supportive of this.” A few hours later, the aide provided an update: “ House will vote on it. Suspension [of rules] likely."
After a week of declining odds of both chambers approving the Israeli aid, lawmakers did just that on a remarkable Friday on Capitol Hill. It now goes to President Barack Obama’s desk for his signature.
The White House earlier this week expressed its support for the funds.
Speaking from the White House briefing room on Friday, Obama expressed the importance of Iron Dome in protecting Israeli citizens from Hamas-fired rockets.
The Iron Dome system, credited with intercepting hundreds of Hamas rockets in recent weeks, is built by Israeli companies Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and Israel Aerospace Industries, and many US lawmakers and officials want a US firm like Raytheon or Boeing to eventually begin co-production of the system.
The Senate approval was an abrupt about-face from Thursday evening, when GOP fiscal hawks mounted an unrelenting effort to block the funding.
The first evidence of Republicans’ staunch disinterest in using emergency funds to help Israel came on Tuesday, when CongressWatch first reported that House GOP leaders would not follow the Senate’s lead by including the $225 million for Iron Dome in its version of an emergency supplemental to deal with the US-Mexico border crisis.
The next came later on Tuesday and throughout the week in the halls near the Senate chamber, where Republican senators hinted and postured — but never quite said it overtly — that they were skeptical of using so-called “off-book” funds to help Israel.■