Far-left Democrats, including members of the “Squad,” successfully pressured House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday into stripping military aid to Israel from a bill to keep the federal government open past Sept. 30.
Progressives opposed an attempt by Mrs. Pelosi, California Democrat, to include more than $1 billion for Israel’s Iron Dome within the stopgap government funding measure the House is set to pass Tuesday.
The missile defense system, which Israel increasingly has relied on against Islamist efforts to kill its civilians, intercepts short-range rockets fired from as far away as 40 miles.
Far-left Democrats argued that they could not back the funding bill if it included military aid to Israel, accusing the Jewish state of perpetrating genocide against the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
“Let Israel end the blockade, end the occupation, and end apartheid,” the Council on American-Islamic Relations said in a statement. “Until then, American taxpayers should not give the Israeli apartheid government another dime in military aid, much less another billion dollars thrown into the budget at the last minute.”
Moderate Democrats, like Rep. Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, opposed the push to strip funding, arguing that the Iron Dome was vital to the security of Israel and its people.
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“The Iron Dome protects innocent civilians in Israel from terrorist attacks, and some of my colleagues have now blocked funding it,” Mr. Gottheimer said. “We must stand by our historic ally — the only democracy in the Middle East.”
Given that Democrats narrowly control the House, Mrs. Pelosi cannot afford to lose more than three members on a vote.
That reality forced the speaker to acquiesce to the progressives, who had more votes against funding the Iron Dome than moderates had in favor.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro, Connecticut Democrat and Appropriations Committee chairwoman, said that stripping $1 billion from the stopgap measure for Iron Dome would not “interrupt” funding for the program.
Instead, she said Democrats would work to insert the money into the annual defense spending bill, where it is likely to receive bipartisan support.
“The Iron Dome will be included in the final, bipartisan and bicameral fiscal year 2022 Defense bill,” said Ms. DeLauro.
Progressive Democrats have long attempted to defund federal support for Israel. Earlier this year, Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan introduced legislation that would prevent the Biden White House from selling more than $753 million in precision-guided weapons to Israel.
Republicans say the schism among Democrats over the Iron Dome underscores the difficulty Mrs. Pelosi has in keeping her majority together.
“I have heard that they are in complete disarray right now over these initiatives,” said Rep. Mike Rogers of Alabama, the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee. “There are problem children on the Democrat side, just [like] we have problem children on the Republican side, that are looking for any excuse to be against anything defense-related.”
Mr. Rogers added that the tactics far-left Democrats used to force Mrs. Pelosi to strip funding for the Iron Dome were reminiscent of the terrorist groups that would benefit most from the move.
“They’re legislative terrorists, who don’t mind killing the hostages,” said Mr. Rogers. “These bills are the hostages … they’re not here to govern and make things happen.”
The dust-up over Israel came as House Democrats prepared to vote on a short-term funding measure to keep the government open past Sept. 30.
Mrs. Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, plan to link the stopgap measure to a suspension of the federal debt ceiling. Democrats say that suspending the cap on how much the federal government could borrow to pay for expenditures, like bureaucratic salaries and Social Security, was needed to avoid a default on U.S. debts.
“Since 1960, the debt ceiling has been raised approximately 80 times under both Republican and Democratic administrations and under both unified and divided government,” said Mr. Schumer.
Republicans say that if Democrats are content to pass President Biden’s $3.5 trillion spending bill on party-line votes, they should be responsible for raising the debt ceiling to make that spending possible.
“What we’re not prepared to do is to relieve the Democratic president, the Democratic House and Senate from their governing obligation to address the deficit,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican.
Mr. McConnell is urging Democrats to deal with the debt ceiling using budget reconciliation. The process, which Democrats are using to pass Mr. Biden’s $3.5 trillion package, allows some spending and tax measures to avoid a filibuster and pass with a simple majority of 51 votes.
Democrats are unwilling to entertain the idea as it would for them to specify a new, higher ceiling. Many, especially vulnerable Democrats already facing tough reelection bids, don’t want to be on record for raising the federal debt above the current limit of $28.5 trillion.
Given that reality, Democrats have coupled the debt ceiling increase with funding for the federal government and emergency disaster relief. They hope the mash-up will be enough to pressure Mr. McConnell and Republicans to capitulate.
Republicans say the Democratic brinkmanship could just wind up shutting down the federal government and causing the U.S. to default on its debts for the first time in federal history.
“You know you don’t have the votes in the United States Senate,” said Rep. Tom Cole, Oklahoma Republican. “If any of you think you’re going to break Mitch McConnell on this, good luck with that.”