WASHINGTON (JTA) — Rand Paul, the Republican senator from Kentucky, is the latest lawmaker to get in the way of $1 billion in new assistance to Israel to replenish its Iron Dome anti-missile system.
Paul on Thursday revealed himself to be the single senator refusing to “hotline” the bill now that it has been approved by the U.S. House of Representatives. “Hotlining” is when all 100 senators agree to allow a bill to go straight to the floor for a vote, substantially accelerating the process.
Paul is one of the most outspoken opponents of foreign assistance, and for a period a number of years ago proposed eliminating assistance to Israel. Now, a spokesperson for Paul told Politico that Paul will drop his objection to the Iron Dome hotlining if the $1 billion comes from proposed assistance to Afghanistan.
In an email Friday, Paul told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that all 50 Republicans in the Senate backed his formula for using money from funds designated for Afghanistan. but Democrats were opposed.
“All 50 Republicans have agreed to my hotline to fully fund Iron Dome with funds that might otherwise go to the Taliban,” he said. “Democrats are holding my bill to fund Iron Dome.”
Paul’s stand is the latest wrinkle in a funding request that has roiled Congress. Progressives last week squelched a plan by the Democratic leadership in the House to slip the money into an unrelated emergency stopgap government funding bill, saying the last-minute inclusion undercut congressional conventions.
Instead, the Democratic leadership advanced the funding in a standalone bill, which the House approved after a brief debate. The standalone bill passed overwhelmingly, including among progressives in the Democratic caucus.
Israel asked for the $1 billion, which is in addition to $500 million the Iron Dome gets each year, to replenish supplies after Israel’s Gaza conflict in May.
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee on Twitter urged Paul to “stand with our ally Israel.”
“Blocking emergency funding to ensure Israel can protect its citizens from terrorist rockets rewards Hamas and undermines America’s interests & values,” the lobby said.