Senator Paul blocks another unanimous vote to replenish Iron Dome

'I've consistently opposed spending outside of the budget unless it's offset by spending cuts elsewhere,' said the Kentucky Senator.

US Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) (photo credit: REUTERS)
US Senator Rand Paul (R-KY)
(photo credit: REUTERS)

WASHINGTON – US Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) voted on Wednesday to block another attempt to provide Israel with $1 billion to replenish its Iron Dome system, citing the need to find a financial source to the bill. The vote took place as Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) asked for unanimous consent for the Senate to proceed with the House version of the bill.

“The Senate must pass HR 5323 as quickly as possible,” said Blumenthal. “Iron Dome has widespread bipartisan support in Congress as well it should,” he said, noting that during Operation Guardian of the Walls in May, the system intercepted about 90% of the missiles targeting populated civilians in Israel.

“In total, 4,400 rockets were launched by Hamas,” said Blumenthal. “If the Iron Dome had failed, countless Israeli civilians would have been killed. The system performed exceptionally well and it showed its necessity for both humanitarian and strategic defensive purposes. I’m very concerned that one of my colleagues previously blocked the passage of this bill in the Senate.”

Paul replied to Blumenthal, “I’ve consistently opposed spending outside of the budget unless it’s offset by spending cuts elsewhere. It’s not only an opinion that I hold. It’s actually the law. It’s called pay as you go. We passed the law many years ago to try to balance our books by having people come forward with things that sound good, want to spend it, but not offset it by spending cuts elsewhere.

“There’s no question that the US has been a very good ally of Israel over time,” Paul continued. “Probably, funds exceeding 80 to 100 billion have been expended to Israel over the last four decades. Just on missile defense, the United States has given Israel seven billion.

I’m not disputing whether or not the extra billion dollars would help them,” Paul added. “I’ll vote for the extra billion dollars. And that’s what I will propose today, but it should be offset with spending cuts elsewhere. There’s a $3 billion fund that is left over from money we were giving to the Afghan national government. There is no Afghan national government. The Taliban have taken over.”

He said, “It’s money that can be reclaimed,” and asked Blumenthal, “Why wouldn’t it be a good thing to take money that might go to our enemy and actually give it to our ally? It makes perfect sense.”

US Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) and other members of the House Freedom Caucus hold a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. March 7, 2017. (credit: REUTERS/ERIC THAYER)US Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) and other members of the House Freedom Caucus hold a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. March 7, 2017. (credit: REUTERS/ERIC THAYER)

BLUMENTHAL RESPONDED to Paul, “No fund, none, zero will be used to help or support or enable in any way the Taliban.” He added that funds previously appropriated for Afghanistan security forces were “deeply needed to terminate contracts that are already in place.”

“We cannot continue to use the US-Israel relationship as a political football,” said Blumenthal. “It is against our own strategic interest. It violates our humanitarian values. And I ask, where are my colleagues across the aisle when one of their own members is actively impeding Israel’s ability to defend itself from Hamas? Where’s their concern? Where’s the outrage?”

It is not clear yet when the measure will be considered again. One speculation is that it could be part of another continuing resolution or the final spending bill that will be passed early next year – or a free standing measure.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) tweeted that Senator Paul’s “continued delay of Iron Dome funding undermines Israel’s security, risks innocent lives, makes war more likely, and emboldens Iran-backed terrorists.”

The American Jewish Committee (AJC) tweeted, “Senator Paul continues to hold up Iron Dome funding in the Senate. Senator, it is time to follow through with your support of Israel.”

Halie Soifer, CEO of the Jewish Democratic Council of America, said, “The House passed the bill overwhelmingly 83 days ago, and Senate Democrats unanimously support its passage. The one thing standing in its way is complete Republican apathy toward the intransigence of Senator Rand Paul.”

Democratic Majority for Israel President Mark Mellman said, “It is absolutely unconscionable that Senator Paul has turned his back on Israel and that Senate Republicans have simply gone along with it.”

The CUFI action fund tweeted, “Yesterday, Senator Rand Paul once again blocked US support for Israel’s Iron Dome. Kentucky is a pro-Israel state. Paul’s obstructionism contradicts the will of his constituents, imperils civilians in the region and undermines American and Israeli security interests. Leader Schumer and leader McConnel must stop fringe politicians from hijacking American foreign policy and advance Iron Dome support without delay.”

AJC chief policy and political affairs officer Jason Issacson said, “With Senator Paul’s latest obstruction, it appears Iron Dome funding – though enjoying overwhelming bipartisan support in both chambers, as well as from the administration – is unlikely to move before February, unless leadership can find a procedural detour around his roadblock.” said.

Isaacson explained that since the Senate’s procedure operates on the basis of unanimous consent, one determined Senator can halt progress on almost any measure – or at least slow it to a crawl.

“Senator Paul has exercised that power repeatedly, on a range of issues. Last year, he blocked Senate action on a bill that had previously won unanimous support to make lynching a federal hate crime,” Isaacson noted. “The senator’s position on Iron Dome funding puts the lives of Israeli civilians at risk. Replenishing and adding to Israel’s arsenal of these life-saving defensive weapons is essential.”