Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., on Monday moved to ensure Israel receives crucial military aid, decoupling $225 million funding for the Iron Dome missile defense system from a controversial border bill.
Senate Democrats had attached the Iron Dome funding to President Obama's request for $3.7 billion in emergency funds to address the crisis on the southern border with Mexico, where thousands of unaccompanied minors from Central America have been illegally entering the U.S. in search of asylum.
But Republicans, who oppose the scope and cost of Obama's request, balked, despite the fact that Democrats scaled down the dollar figure by a billion.
With just three days until Congress is scheduled to adjourn for a five-week summer break, House Republicans and Senate Democrats remain at odds over how the border crisis should be addressed. That impasse threatened to derail Iron Dome funding just as Israel finds itself fighting with Hamas.
But Reid said in remarks on the Senate floor Monday afternoon that he would support moving the Iron Dome funds “separately” if that’s what it takes to garner the Republican votes needed to clear the measure before the August recess begins on Friday.
“As the number of rockets being launched from Gaza continue to surge, Israel’s Iron Dome resources are being depleted,” Reid said. “Last week, the secretary of defense requested Congress allocate millions in emergency funding to help Israel’s defense system. After weeks of fighting, Israel needs these funds to replace the weaponry used to destroy Hamas’ incoming rockets.”
Standalone legislation to provide emergency funding to Israel for Iron Dome, as requested by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, would have strong support in the Senate on both sides of the aisle. Last week, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Republicans support the funding but that it should be handled separately from the border bill.