Senator Rand Paul postpones vote for Iron Dome replenishment

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WASHINGTON – Republican Senator Rand Paul delayed a vote on Monday to speed up a bill that would have provided Israel with $ 1 billion for the reconstruction of the Iron Dome. More than ten days after the House of Representatives passed a suspension bill to replenish Israel’s iron dome system, it is still unclear when the Senate will vote on it.

In recent days, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and Christian United For Israel (CUFI) have urged Paul to support the bill. Paul was revealed Thursday to be the only senator refusing to “upload” the bill now that it has been approved by the United States House of Representatives. “Hotlining” is when all 100 senators agree to allow a bill to go straight to the floor for a vote, dramatically speeding up the process.

Paul is one of the most vocal opponents of foreign aid, and a few years ago he proposed eliminating aid to Israel. Now, a spokesperson for Paul has told Politico that Paul will drop his objection to the Iron Dome hotline if the billion dollars come from the proposed aid to Afghanistan.

Debate began when Senator Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey) introduced the motion to expedite the bill and asked the Senate for unanimous consent. “There is no conceivable reason for anyone in this room on either side of the aisle to object to US support for this vital defense to be fully prepared for the next attack,” Menendez said. “I strongly urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to join the House of Representatives in pushing through this funding as part of a largely bipartisan effort.”

Senator Paul opposed the motion and said that although he supported the Iron Dome, he believed “he should be paid”.

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

“I think the American taxpayer money that pays for this should come from the money that could go to the Taliban,” Paul said. He suggested taking the funds of about $ 6 billion intended for the Afghan government. “This money, I think, could be spent on the Taliban, if we don’t cancel this money.”

“The rationale for my proposal to pay this is simple,” he continued. “Only an economically strong United States can be a militarily strong ally of Israel. I support Israel; I voted for hundreds of millions of dollars to support Iron Dome. I’m happy that the United States has a strong connection with Israel, but the United States cannot give money that it does not have, no matter how strong our relationship is. The United States is approaching $ 30 trillion in debt. Our out of control spending added $ 3 trillion to debt in this fiscal year alone. “

Menendez rejected Paul’s amendment and made it clear that he opposes it. “This amendment would reduce the refugee assistance used at this very moment to evacuate and resettle American allies and partners who have served alongside the Americans in the war on terror,” he said.

“The reality is that US dollars are not going to the Taliban, and neither will they,” Menendez continued. “Be clear, no US foreign aid will go to a Taliban-controlled Afghan government. This does not mean that we remain any less determined to support the Afghan people. On the contrary. U.S. humanitarian aid could be channeled through highly vetted partners like the World Food Program whom we trust to put the interests of the Afghan people first. So let me be clear. Senator Paul’s amendment would effectively plunder the funding that provides vital humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people, and they need it more than ever.

ON THE OTHER HAND, Paul argued that “it is very clear and very important that it is very clear that I offered to fully pay for the iron dome system with an additional billion dollars”, and that ” the objection comes from the Democratic side. They are opposed to his being paid. We have proposed this $ 6 billion fund.

He warned that “a day of judgment is coming sooner than you think.” He said that “the interest on the debt will be more than what we spend on national defense in just a few years”, and that “if the debt weakens us to the point where we find it difficult to finance our own military needs, how can the United States? States remain a reliable ally of Israel? Getting our public finances in order does not mean that we do not support Israel. Far from there.”

    IRON DOME interceptors destroy rockets launched from the Gaza Strip into Israel in the skies of Ashkelon in May.  (credit: AMIR COHEN / REUTERS) IRON DOME interceptors destroy rockets launched from the Gaza Strip into Israel in the skies of Ashkelon in May. (credit: AMIR COHEN / REUTERS)

“The billion dollars envisioned today is in addition to the more than $ 1.6 billion the United States has already given for Iron Dome,” said Paul. ” And that’s not all. The United States provides Israel with just under $ 4 billion in aid per year. To date, the United States has provided more than $ 146 billion in aid to Israel. In addition to Iron Dome, the United States has also helped Israel fund other missile defense systems. We spent $ 2 billion on David Sling and $ 3.7 billion on the Arrow programs, ”he said.

“I know my colleague has not particularly supported foreign aid in general and in this particular case, but the reality is that we have an opportunity here,” Menendez replied. “I have no doubts that Iron Dome will be finished. We will provide the resources to our ally, the State of Israel, but it is a shame that we have the uncertainty that remains because of the objection.

CUFI condemned Paul after his vote. “Iron Dome is a matter of life and death for Israelis and Palestinians, and Senator Paul, true to his ways, considers the rebuilding of this vital system to be a political game,” said the founder and president of CUFI, Pastor John Hagee. “Whatever his concerns about other issues, they must be handled in a way that does not endanger innocent lives,” Hagee said. “The legislation he is blocking has advanced through the House of Representatives with overwhelming bipartisan support. Senator Paul must stop playing with the safety of the Israeli people. “

AIPAC also sharply criticized the senator. “Today Rand Paul joined Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Thomas Massie for not supporting Iron Dome emergency funding,” AIPAC tweeted. “Their objections to funding Iron Dome undermine Israel’s security, cost innocent lives, make war more likely, and embolden Iranian-backed terrorists.”

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