WASHINGTON - Republican Sen. Rand Paul on Monday blocked a Senate effort to fast-track $1 billion in emergency Iron Dome missile defense system funding to Israel.
Paul objected to Sen. Bob Menendez's efforts to pass the Iron Dome bill, which passed the House last week, via unanimous consent.
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"There is no conceivable reason why anyone in this chamber on either side of the aisle should stand in the way of U.S. support for this life-saving defense to be fully ready for the next attack," Menendez said. "I strongly urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to join the House of Representatives in passing this funding as a broadly bipartisan effort."
Menendez was trying to get all 100 senators to agree on the bill, which would bypass the need for a formal process to pass it. Paul's objection thwarts this, so the measure can no longer be rushed to the White House; the Democratic leadershop will now have to go through the process of scheduling a vote, informing members, holding floor debates and other steps.
The Kentucky Republican, one of the greatest critics of foreign aid in Washington, argued that the Iron Dome funding should come from proposed assistance to Afghanistan. He noted that he, along with his fellow Senate Republicans that "This is clear to all the Republicans, so it needs to be very clear today that Republicans support paying for Iron Dome — and they support paying for Iron Dome with taking away money that would go to the Taliban."
Menendez rejected Paul's arguments as a problematic "fig leaf," arguing that they would create a domino effect of negative results for broader U.S. foreign policy and national security interests. The New Jersey senator noted that "the only reason [the funding is] being held up in this body is because of this amendment. It is not a member of the Democratic caucus; this is a defensive life safety system built on years of cooperation with our ally Israel. I'm disappointed we're in this situation."
Following Paul's move, it is now up to Democratic leadership to schedule a vote at their leisure, which could be in the next several days or weeks. Should the Senate pass the same standalone bill that passed the House, it will go straight to U.S. President Joe Biden for his signature. Should they pass a different version — a rather unlikely scenario — it will again go back to the House for confirmation.
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The Christians United for Israel evangelical pro-Israel organization sharply criticized Paul for treating the aid like a "political game."
"Whatever concerns he has on other issues should be addressed in a manner that does not put innocent lives at risk. The legislation he is blocking advanced through the House of Representatives with overwhelming bipartisan support. Senator Paul needs to stop playing games with the safety of the Israeli people,” said CUFI founder and Chairman Pastor John Hagee.