WASHINGTON ― A proposal to send Israel $1 billion for the Iron Dome air defense system has been cut out of a stopgap government funding bill, meant to avoid a government shutdown after Sept. 30, in order to ease its passage in the House.
House Democrats introduced the bill Tuesday with the Iron Dome proposal in it, alongside $6.3 billion in emergency funding to resettle Afghan refugees and other Pentagon-friendly provisions. However, the lron Dome funding had to be cut because it created an internal schism for Democrats, who must unify to overcome Republican opposition to the broader bill, according to a source familiar with the matter.
The continuing resolution would run through Dec. 3.
By Tuesday afternoon, House Appropriations Committee Chair Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., introduced a revised version of the continuing resolution, due for House floor consideration later in the day. She pledged “we will address Iron Dome in fiscal 2022, in the defense appropriations bill,” which would “uphold our commitment to protect Israel’s security” consistent with the U.S.-Israel agreement of 2016.
The funding would also allow Washington to make good on President Joe Biden’s pledge earlier this year to replenish Israel’s Iron Dome system after Israeli forces used it against rocket attacks by Hamas in May.
Centrist Democrats were frustrated that objections from some House progressives led to the exclusion of the funding.
In a series of tweets, Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich., stressed that the system is used to defend civilians in population centers. “Whatever your views on the Israeli-[Palestinian] conflict, using a system that just saved hundreds, if not thousands, of lives as a political chit is problematic,” she said.
The hiccup underscores the complicated path to passing the continuing resolution. Because House Democrats included language to suspend the country’s debt limit for another year, the bill’s expected to face a filibuster from Senate Republicans.
Raising the prospect of a government shutdown, Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky warned Monday that his caucus won’t vote for a debt ceiling hike and instead favor a “clean continuing resolution that included appropriate disaster relief and targeted Afghan assistance.” House Appropriations Committee ranking member Kay Granger, R-Texas, on Tuesday said House Republicans will oppose a debt ceiling hike as well.
The bill’s marquee provision to support Afghan evacuees would pay to temporarily house evacuees at American facilities overseas as well as screen them and resettle eligible evacuees in the U.S., according to a bill summary.
The bill would also require a report on the disposition of property, equipment and supplies that were destroyed, were taken out of Afghanistan or are still in Afghanistan in connection with the U.S. military withdrawal. In the Taliban’s takeover of the country, the militant group recovered U.S.-supplied guns, ammunition, helicopters and other modern military equipment from Afghan forces who surrendered it.
Meant to buy time for spending negotiations for 2022, the bill includes provisions aimed at government functions beyond defense. “It is critical that Congress swiftly pass this legislation to support critical education, health, housing and public safety programs and provide emergency help for disaster survivors and Afghan evacuees,” DeLauro said Tuesday.
Another provision $885 million in Air Force research funding would continue the Strategic Microelectronic Supply program, backing the defense budget request’s emphasis on cutting-edge defense technologies. A separate measure would protect the Pentagon’s efforts to field jam-resistant GPS equipment.
If lawmakers don’t include anomalies like these, continuing resolutions typically only continue spending at the prior year’s level and prevent new-start programs from moving forward.
Following a call from the Biden administration for the inclusion of added funds, the continuing resolution contains $28.6 billion in disaster relief funding. Of that, it offers $565 million for the Navy and $330 million for the Air Force to repair facilities damaged by natural disasters in 2020 and 2021.
The bill also extends the authority for the Defense Department to obligate funds during the period of the continuing resolution for military construction projects that first received funding in fiscal 2017.
Joe Gould is the senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry. He served previously as Congress reporter.