WASHINGTON – Minnesota Democratic Rep. Dean Phillips voiced disappointment this week over the removal of $1 billion for Israel's Iron Dome defense system from a key government funding bill.
On Tuesday, House Democrats hurried to reach an agreement among their members on legislation whose larger goals were trying to avoid a government shutdown and suspending the debt limit. The package ultimately passed the House later that night with the Iron Dome money stripped out.
"I was disappointed that some of my Democratic colleagues felt strongly enough about support for a defensive system for Israel that they would actually risk shutting down our government," Phillips, who is Jewish, said in an interview. "Yes I was disappointed, and equally disappointed in Republicans who were going to vote against it with the funding who are now using it as a political weapon against Democrats."
It was unclear why the money was removed from the measure before the bill passed. House Democrats narrowly hold control of the chamber and losing just a few votes would likely have cost them their chance to pass the government funding bill.
Democratic Rep. Betty McCollum, who chairs the powerful House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, said the $1 billion for Iron Dome was added "without my knowledge or consent."
"This language would have had resulted in total chaos in the U.S. House of Representatives' appropriations process because it would have added an additional billion dollars that had not been budgeted for. Cuts in other spending bills would have been required to make this work," McCollum said in a statement. "In order to keep the federal government open and functioning, a decision was made to remove this provision from the Continuing Resolution."
All four Minnesota House Democrats voted for the government funding bill Tuesday, while all four GOP members from the state voted against it. The bill's fate in the Senate is uncertain.
On Wednesday, Minnesota Republicans slammed the decision to remove the funding for Israel. "It was despicable for Speaker Pelosi to cave to the growing anti-Semitic wing of her Caucus and strip funding for Israel's Iron Dome, a missile defense system that has saved countless innocent families and children," GOP Rep. Pete Stauber said in a statement.
Rep. Tom Emmer, chairman of the House GOP's campaign arm, said in a statement "to remove funding for Israel's Iron Dome is unconscionable and fails our closest ally in the Middle East. This should receive a House vote to send a strong message that the United States continues to stand with Israel."
House Democratic Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland said during a floor speech Tuesday that he intends to bring a bill to the House floor "before the end of this week that will fund fully Iron Dome." Then on Wednesday, Rep. Rosa DeLauro, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, announced legislation for "$1 billion to replace missile interceptors that were used to protect Israeli civilians from Hamas rockets during heavy fighting in May," according to a news release.
Both McCollum and Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar have been publicly critical of Israel in the past. Omar's words involving Israel have also caused controversies at times. The whip of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Omar did not address questions about the Iron Dome funding or the decision in a statement Wednesday.
"Last night, House Leadership didn't include this provision in the continuing resolution. It was a stopgap funding bill, which was essential to keeping our government open," Omar said. "On the details of how it all came together, I would defer to House Leadership and the Rules Committee."
Hunter Woodall • 612-673-4559