JEWISH INSIDER: Rand Paul takes heat from pro-Israel groups for stalling Iron Dome funding

by tgilden

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A coalition of pro-Israel organizations sent a letter to Senate leadership on Tuesday taking aim at Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) for blocking supplemental funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile-defense system and arguing that folding the funding into a larger package would “undermine Israel’s security.”

The funding passed the House by an overwhelming bipartisan majority in September of last year, but Paul has repeatedly blocked passage in the Senate, insisting that funding be reallocated from Afghanistan aid to pay for the $1 billion Iron Dome supplement.

The letter — sent to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) — was signed by Christians United for Israel, The Jewish Federations of North America, the Orthodox Union, Hadassah, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, the Union for Reform Judaism and the Anti-Defamation League.

“[The funding] has bipartisan support in the Senate, although passage has been stymied,” the letter, a copy of which was obtained by Jewish Insider, reads. “One person’s objection should not undermine the overwhelming bipartisan will of the Senate nor stand in the way of ensuring Israel has the tools necessary to keep people safe.”

For some of the groups targeting Paul, the letter represents an escalation.

A Senate source told JI in December — after Paul blocked a unanimous consent request to pass the funding on the Senate floor for the fourth time — that the “next chance” to approve the funding would be in a possible omnibus government funding package in February.

On Tuesday, the organizations wrote that they oppose this strategy.

“While we understand the supplemental Iron Dome funding would likely be included in a final omnibus spending package, the delay and even the prospects of a second continuing resolution undermine Israel’s security when the need to replenish this defensive system is urgent,” the letter reads.

It is also increasingly uncertain whether Congress will be able to finalize an omnibus funding package by February.

Schumer spokesperson Angelo Roefaro emphasized to JI, in response to the letter, that “[t]he Democratic side of the aisle wants to pass the bill by unanimous consent, but Senator Paul continues to block the bill from going to the President’s desk.”

The plan to pass the funding as part of an omnibus “puts a lot of faith in Congress’s ability to pass an omnibus. And for an important partner like Israel — they shouldn’t have to wait 9 months for replenishment of defensive, life-saving equipment,” a senior government official with knowledge of Iron Dome funding told JI.

The official added that Israel is unlikely to run out of Iron Dome interceptors in the short term, unless there is a major conflict — potentially one involving attacks from both the north and south — but in that case, “the hold would have a tangible impact on both Israel’s security and the security of those American citizens living in Israel.”

A Senate source told JI that Democrats still view the omnibus as a “plan B” if Paul does not pull his objections and that the Democrats are seeking to avoid passing another continuing resolution (a temporary stopgap government funding bill).

“A lot of those groups don’t understand how floor time works and certainly aren’t advocating the shelving of other domestic priorities in the short term,” the source added. Currently, the main topic of debate on the Senate floor is over creating a carveout to the Senate filibuster to pass Democrats’ voting reform legislation.

CUFI Action Fund Chairwoman Sandra Parker told JI, “Senators Schumer and McConnell must exhibit the necessary leadership to reject the political fringes and advance this bipartisan legislation. As evidenced by the politically and religiously diverse coalition of organizations that signed this letter, the American people have waited far too long for the Senate to act.”

“Time is of the essence,” Rhoda Smolow, Hadassah’s national president, told JI. “Hamas and Hezbollah are constantly building their arsenals of terror, and we cannot wait for the next wave of attacks. Innocent lives are at risk. It is past time for the Senate to move forward on replenishing the Iron Dome missile defense system now, which has broad and bipartisan support.”

Elana Broitman, senior vice president of public affairs for JFNA, added, “Iron Dome has overwhelmingly strong bipartisan support, and the supplemental funding should not be delayed any further.”

second letter, from some overlapping groups — the American Jewish Congress, Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Agudath Israel of America, Ameinu, B’nai B’rith, Hadassah, the Israel Policy Forum, Jewish Women International, Rabbinical Assembly, Orthodox Union, Union for Reform Judaism and Zionist Organization of America — was also sent to the Senate leaders on Tuesday.

That letter does not directly attack Paul, but instead decries “unfortunate gamesmanship that is taking place right now in the Senate.” The signatories also do not directly criticize the omnibus strategy and instead “implore [Schumer and McConnell]  to not allow any more needless delays in passing this legislation. Blocking immediate consideration of the legislation weakens our entire nation’s commitment to our Israeli ally’s security.”

A statement about the letter from the American Jewish Congress highlighted that it includes a “diverse array of Jewish organizations spanning diverse religious, political, and policy spectrums” and “shows the strong support that exists across the Jewish community for getting the funding approved.”


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