WASHINGTON - More than ten days after the House of Representatives passed a suspension bill to replenish ammunition for Israel's Iron Dome, the Senate has yet to approve the bill. People familiar with the legislative process estimated that it could be brought to the Senate floor on Monday night, but noted that was not guaranteed.
In recent days, pro-Israel groups called on Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) to support the move and fast-track the bill. Paul on Thursday revealed himself to be the single senator refusing to “hotline” the bill now that it has been approved by the US House of Representatives. “Hotlining” is when all 100 senators agree to allow a bill to go straight to the floor for a vote, substantially accelerating the process.
Paul is one of the most outspoken opponents of foreign aid, and for a period, a number of years ago he proposed eliminating assistance to Israel. Now, a spokesperson for Paul told Politico that Paul will drop his objection to hotlining the Iron Dome bill if the $1 billion comes from proposed assistance to Afghanistan.
As of Monday at noon, it was still unclear if the bill would be brought to the Senate floor later today. According to people familiar with the legislative process, one scenario is that Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) would bring the bill to the floor and ask for unanimous consent during the evening round of votes. It has yet to be seen whether Paul would agree or object and block the bill. A third option is that Paul would demand Menendez to consider his amendment, but wouldn’t oppose the bill moving forward.
In recent days, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and Christian United For Israel (CUFI) pressed Paul to support the bill. AIPAC called Paul to “stand with our ally Israel.”
“Blocking emergency funding to ensure Israel can protect its citizens from terrorist rockets rewards Hamas and undermines America’s interests & values,” the group said.
David Wicker, Congressional Liaison to CUFI, sent a letter to Paul in recent days. “On behalf of the more than 181,000 members of Christians United for Israel (CUFI) in Kentucky, I am writing to respectfully request that you do not object to Senator Menendez’s motion,” the letter reads. The Washington Free Beacon first reported about the letter.
“Funding for Iron Dome is not an academic discussion. Innocent human lives are at stake,” Wicker wrote. “As such, your tactics undermine the US-Israel strategic relationship and the safety of innocent Israeli men, women and children living under the threat of terrorist rocket fire as well as the many Americans who regularly visit Israel, including those from our great Commonwealth.”
He went on to write that “allowing Hamas to hold a gun to Israelis’ heads by blocking support for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system empowers those hate-filled Representatives who demanded support for Iron Dome’s replenishment be removed from the recently advanced Continuing Resolution.”
“If you block this unanimous consent request, you will be emboldening the most virulent anti-Israel forces in Congress,” Wicker wrote.
JTA contributed to this report.