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Sen. Rand Paul stalls passing of bill to fund Israel's Iron Dome

Sen. Rand Paul stalls passing of bill to fund Israel's Iron Dome
Lawmakers are seeking to pass a bill to replenish Israel's Iron Dome missile system after it intercepted thousands of rockets fired at its population by Gaza militants in May amid renewed fighting between the two sides. File Photo by Debbie Hill/UPI | License Photo

Oct. 5 (UPI) -- Republican Sen. Rand Paul blocked the Senate from voting on a bill to fund Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system that was overwhelmingly passed by the House late last month.

The bill allocates $1 billion to replenish Israel's missile defense system after it intercepted thousands of rockets fired toward its population from Gaza amid renewed fighting with Hamas and other Palestinian militants in May.

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The House passed the bill 420 to nine with two lawmakers voting present on Sept. 23.

The bill was originally included in legislation concerning raising the debt ceiling and funding the government but was removed over concerns the whole initiative would fail amid pushback over the Israeli funding by progressive democrats. The bill to fund the Iron Dome was then introduced on its own.

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Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., who is also chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee, had sought to pass the bill under an expedited manner, but Paul objected on Monday, entering an amendment to rescind $6 billion allocated for Afghanistan reconstruction, with $1 billion paying to replenish Israel's system and the rest returning to the Treasury.

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The Kentucky Republican argued from the floor that if the United States doesn't rescind that money, it could end up in the hands of the Taliban, who took control of the Middle Eastern country in August amid a U.S. military withdrawal.

He also argued that only an economically strong country can defend its allies.

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"I am glad the United States has a strong bond with Israel," he said from the floor. "But the United States cannot give money it does not have, no matter how strong our relationship is."

Menendez rejected the amendment to the House bill but in doing so Paul stopped his objective to have the bill passed with only two hours of arguments instead through lengthy proceedings.

The Democrat from New Jersey called Paul's amendment "problematic," one that would "unleash an array of adverse consequences" for U.S. foreign policy and national security objectives.

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The amendment, he explained, would rescind money from both Departments of State and Defense and that none of it was to go to Taliban-controlled governments.

"Sen. Paul's amendment would actually raid the funding that delivers lifesaving humanitarian aid to the Afghan people and they need it more than ever," Menendez said. "In short, Sen. Paul's amendment would undermine national security, it would abandon the Afghan people in their darkest hour and it would betray the American people's commitment to supporting our Afghan allies."

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The bill is largely expected to pass the Senate but now must go through a lengthier bureaucratic process.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a bipartisan U.S. organization that advocates for U.S.-Israel relations, accused Paul of joining Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan as well as Kentucky Republican Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky who had voiced strong opposition to the House bill and were among the nine lawmakers to vote against it while Ocasio-Cortez voted present.

"Their objectives to funding Iron Dome undermine Israel's security, cost innocent lives, make war more likely and embolden Iran-backed terrorists," AIPCA said via Twitter.

Menendez said the only reason the bill has not been passed is because of Paul's amendment.

"I'm disappointed we are in this situation," he said.

The bill was proposed in the wake of renewed and ferocious fighting between Israel and Gaza militants in response to Israel attempting to forcibly displace Palestinian families from their East Jerusalem homes.

The Israeli Defense Forces said militants fired nearly 4,400 rockets at its population, with about 90% being intercepted by the Iron Dome system.

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The fighting resulted in the deaths of 256 Palestinians, including 66 children, and 12 Israelis.

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