Democrats withdraw Iron Dome funds for Israel from interim spending bill


Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system is activated to intercept a rocket launched from the Gaza Strip, controlled by the Palestinian movement Hamas, over the southern Israeli town of Ashdod on May 12, 2021. (Emmanuel Dunand, AFP via Getty Images / TNS)

WASHINGTON (Tribune News Service) – Democratic leaders agreed to strike aid for Israel’s missile defense program which had delayed the House’s consideration of interim funding legislation on Tuesday, after Progressive Democrats who opposed Israel’s military operations in the Palestinian territories and filed objections to the inclusion of the money in the must-have spending bill.

The previous version of the interim funding legislation would have provided the Israeli government with $ 1 billion for its Iron Dome missile defense system “to counter threats from short-range rockets,” a response to attacks on Jerusalem by Palestinian groups in the Gaza Strip over a 12-month period. day period in May.

Sources familiar with the talks later said the Iron Dome funds, included in response to a June request from the Israeli government that the Biden administration approved, should come out of the continuing resolution.

“A group of progressives have told leaders they will not be able to support the CR if the additional $ 1 billion in funding for the iron dome is not withdrawn,” said a Democratic aide from the House who was not allowed to speak in public. .

House Appropriations Chair Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn. Then released a revised interim bill with the removal of Iron Dome funding, along with a few other technical changes. A spokesperson for the Committee on Appropriations said the money would instead be added to the final FY2022 defense spending bill, once it is finalized later this year.

Attempts to reach several progressive lawmakers were not immediately successful on Tuesday. But the problems became evident earlier today when House Rules Speaker Jim McGovern, D-Mass., Suspended his panel meeting to consider the parameters of the floor debate due to what he said. called a “problem” in the interim bill, which he did not draft. to. Sources close to the talks confirmed that Iron Dome funds were in fact the problem.

The temporary funding measure would keep the lights of federal agencies on until Dec. 3, suspend the statutory debt ceiling until after the midterm election, and provide nearly $ 35 billion to deal with disasters and help relocate Afghans who fled their country after the Taliban took control.

The ongoing resolution would provide a range of program extensions and “anomalies” for some agencies to spend additional funds. Examples include a Medicaid boost for the Territories, more money for the office and staff of former President Donald Trump, and a renewal of the lapsed authority to draft claims for the National Insurance Program. floods.

An extension of expiring surface transportation programs was left aside due to a push by moderate House Democrats to vote on a five-year bipartisan package that was passed by the Senate last month.

The most controversial addition will likely be the suspension of the debt ceiling, which Republicans in both chambers have pledged to oppose. The House is expected to vote on the measure later on Tuesday, but with around nine days remaining until the end of the fiscal year, the way forward to avoid a partial government shutdown from October 1 was not yet clear.

“This decision alone could force us into an unnecessary and costly government shutdown and other essential programs of this bill could be left out,” Kay Granger, member of the House Appropriations Committee, R- said on Tuesday. Texas.

If lawmakers can’t come to a debt limit deal before the Treasury Department runs out of borrowing power, the federal government could only pay its bills every day with existing cash. It could endanger Social Security checks, federal employee salaries, and dozens of other financial obligations.

The Treasury said Congress must act next month; Wrightson ICAP, a private investment advisory firm, said this week that the deadline is likely October 25 or 26.

Speaking on CNBC Tuesday morning, Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, cited estimates that lawmakers have until the end of October before they need to act. “We’re not against” the deadline, Portman said. “You don’t have to do it now.”

Portman said Republicans need to see some sort of action to deal with the country’s tax problems to support a suspension of the debt ceiling.

“I guess in a week or so we’ll be back here with a bill that I can support,” Oklahoma Rep. Tom Cole, the Rules Committee’s top Republican, said at the start of the meeting. Tuesday morning meeting to define the parameters of the floor debate. “I don’t think we should be kidding ourselves. I think, with all due respect to my friends, that you are being used as a ram to try and beat Republicans in the Senate, where they have a 60 vote rule. “

DeLauro Tuesday morning didn’t seem worried about the potential delays. “I think let’s just wait and see where we go,” she said after a caucus meeting. “You know the nature of this institution changes in no time.”

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, however, acknowledged that changes may be needed.

“We want to send it to the Senate and give the Senate an opportunity to look at it and determine what it will do,” the Democrat of Maryland told reporters on Tuesday. “And then they can send it back to us, at which point we have to make a decision.”

At least one Senate Republican, John Kennedy of hurricane-stricken Louisiana, said Monday he might be inclined to back a package containing disaster aid.

The interim financing bill would provide $ 28.6 billion to help state and local governments recover from natural disasters, including $ 10 billion to cover agricultural losses from weather events in 2020 and 2021, nearly 6 billion dollars for Army Corps of Engineers flood control projects, $ 5 billion for housing and economic development projects and $ 2.6 billion for road repairs, among others.

The measure would separately put more money into the federal emergency management’s disaster relief fund on October 1. As of August 31, the agency estimated a balance at the end of September of $ 36.4 billion; the RC would bring this figure to over $ 55 billion.

House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, a Republican from Louisiana, highlighted FEMA funds in an advisory to fellow Republicans who nonetheless urged them to vote “no” on the combined package.

The measure would provide $ 6.3 billion to help resettle Afghans who assisted the US government during two decades of war in Afghanistan, including language making refugees eligible for federal benefit programs and resettlement assistance if they do security and background checks. They would also be eligible for accelerated asylum processing.

The bill includes language to temporarily expand the classification of fentanyl, a very potent opioid. Fentanyl is responsible for the lion’s share of drug overdose deaths, which have increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The bill would extend fentanyl’s status as a so-called “Schedule 1” drug until January 28, 2022. Under current law, the drug would lose its status as a high-risk drug for abuse on January 22. October. The National Drug Control Policy issued recommendations on how to classify long-term fentanyl earlier this month.

The RC would temporarily provide additional funding for Medicaid programs in the US island territories. Unlike states, whose Medicaid funding is mandatory by law, the territories are subject to additional restrictions.

Territory funding is capped and funded at a lower match percentage. This match is also subject to a new authorization. The current match rate expires at the end of the fiscal year and the RC would extend it until December 3, 2021. Officials and land advocates have been pushing for a long-term solution.

The territory’s funding would be offset by a withdrawal of $ 96 million from the Health Insurance Improvement Fund. This fund was made redundant by the Health Care Act of 2010 when it established the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Innovation Center.

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David Lerman, Rachel Oswald, Sandhya Raman, Lindsey McPherson and Paul M. Krawzak contributed to this report.

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