(CNSNews.com) – The House of Representatives on Tuesday night passed legislation aimed at preventing a government shutdown after controversy flared over a decision to strip from the measure $1 billion in funding for Israel’s Iron Dome.
The defense system was credited with preventing 90 percent of rockets fired into Israel by Hamas terrorists last May from striking their targets.
The removal of the funding was reportedly prompted by behind-the-scenes threats by progressive members led by Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) and members of the “Squad” to vote against the continuing resolution.
The legislation passed on a party-line vote of 220-211, with Republicans opposing the decision to include in the bill the suspension of the debt limit until after the 2022 midterm elections.
The Iron Dome funding issue was essentially a sideshow to the larger partisan standoff over the debt ceiling, but it spotlighted again Israel-related sensitivities that have roiled the Democratic caucus in recent years.
“Democrats just pulled funding from the Iron Dome – the missile defense system that has saved countless lives in Israel from Hamas’ rocket attacks,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), one of many GOP lawmakers to criticize the move, tweeted earlier in the day.
“While Dems capitulate to the anti-Semitic influence of their radical members, Republicans will always stand with Israel,” he added.
“The Iron Dome exists to defend civilians inside our nation’s great ally, Israel, against offensive air strikes,” said Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.) “It’s very telling that the ‘squad’ and their allies despise it so much.”
Pro-Israel Democrats pushed back against their progressive colleagues.
“The Iron Dome is a defensive system used by one of our closest allies to save civilian lives,” said Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.). “It needs to be replenished because thousands of rockets were fired by the Hamas terrorists who control Gaza.”
“I am incredibly angry that a few of my colleagues want to block this life-saving support,” he said. “And bitterly disappointed that the funding was pulled from the Continuing Resolution rather than standing up for our ally.”
Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.) in a series of tweets countered some of the criticism from Democratic colleagues about Iron Dome funding, pointing out that the “purely defensive system” was co-developed by the U.S. and Israel.
“The research that went into the design of this system is shared between our two countries and can be used to protect our bases abroad, in addition to Israeli civilians in their homes,” she said.
Slotkin noted that financial support for the system was part of the memorandum of understanding on military aid to Israel negotiated by the Obama administration in 2016.
“This isn’t new funding, or unusual funding, or a precipitous increase in funding,” she said.
“All of this is publicly-available information. So to target Iron Dome now means the issue isn’t a genuine concern over the system, but rather the desire to attack something – anything – related to the State of Israel; it’s devoid of substance and irresponsible.”
Then on Tuesday evening, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said on the House floor that he would bring legislation before the end of the week to fully fund the Iron Dome system, adding that he anticipates strong bipartisan support.
Hoyer said the replenishment funding was absolutely essential.
“There were 4,400 rockets in ten days that rained down on Israel, one of our closest allies and friends. Luckily – no, not luckily, because they had Iron Dome – very few lives were lost and very little property was lost.”
Hoyer said he had spoken by phone with Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid “and assured him that that bill was going to pass this House.”
Lapid also tweeted about the call, thanking Hoyer for his pledge but also saying he had “emphasized to him the need to approve the request as soon as possible to ensure Israel’s security needs.”
During an earlier Rules Committee meeting on the legislation, House Appropriations Committee ranking member Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas) decried the funding’s removal from the spending bill.
“It was only four short months ago that Israel faced rocket attacks on a scale that had never been seen before,” Granger said. “Israeli civilians would have suffered terrible casualties had it not been for Iron Dome.”
“Iron Dome rocket interceptors need to be restored and that’s why funding was included as part of the negotiated package,” she said, urging the Democrats to restore it, and to remove the suspension of the debt ceiling from the bill.
But Appropriations Committee chair Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) said the inclusion of the Iron Dome funding in the earlier version of the spending bill had been an “anomaly.” She pledged to ensure that funding would be included in defense funding legislation later this year.