On Thursday, Sept. 23, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 420 to 9 to provide Israel with approximately $1 Billion in funding to restock its short-range Iron Dome missile defense system. The Iron Dome played a critical role in last spring’s massive rocket attacks on Israel by Hamas. The network shot down about 90% of more than 4,000 rockets that Hamas launched against parts of Israel inhabited by civilians.
Simply put, the Iron Dome is a defensive military system. It functions to intercept and destroy short-range rockets and mortars that Hamas and Gaza militants have targeted at Israel’s population centers. It has no offensive utility and has been operational since 2011. Without it, thousands of Israelis would have perished or been severely wounded from enemy rockets.
The final vote on the funding resolution was 420 to 9. The vote reflects overwhelming bipartisan support of Israel. The House Members who voted against funding the Iron Dome were:
Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Rashida Tliab (D-Mich.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), Cori Bush (D-Mo.), Marie Newman (D-Ill.), Jesus Garcia (D-Ill.), Andre Carson (D-Ind.), Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Thomas Massie (R-Ky.).
Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) voted “Present.”
The Democratic House members who voted against funding for resupplying parts for the Iron Dome represent a fraction of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC). The caucus consists of 94 House Democrats and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) who caucuses with the Democrats.
Earlier last week, the coterie of House progressives blocked a vote on an omnibus House budget bill because it included funding for the Iron Dome. Although she ultimately voted to fund the Iron Dome, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), the chair of the CPC, led the effort to separate the Iron Dome funding from the overall funding bill, asserting that the appropriation should not be approved without a debate.
“This just isn’t the way things work around here,” Jayapal told CNN. “There was no discussion about it.”
Not surprisingly, Israel’s characteristic critics — the notorious eight Democrats and Ocasio-Cortez who initially indicated she would vote against funding — endeavored to use the House’s procedural rules to block funding. At present, House Democrats have 220 members to 212 Republicans, which provides House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) with a slender margin of eight votes when support for legislation is based on party affiliation. All Republican House members opposed the overall appropriations measure.
As a result, Speaker Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) had to pull the measure from the House calendar, because without votes from the sliver of House progressive Democrats the funding bill would have failed.
To their credit, neither the Speaker nor Majority Leader were deterred from their goal of obtaining a House vote for the appropriation.
As House Majority Leader, Hoyer is vested with great legislative powers. The majority leader sets the schedule for legislation to be voted on by the entire House. After funding for the Iron Dome was delayed, Israel registered real concern. As The New York Times reported, Hoyer assured Israel’s Foreign Minister Yair Lapid that the delay was technical and temporary. True to his word, with Pelosi’s strong support, Hoyer moved quickly to schedule a vote only on Iron Dome funding for Sept. 23. The result was a massive bipartisan victory for Israel.
Curiously, though she had said she was opposed to Iron Dome funding, Ocasio-Cortez voted “Present” and admitted that she wept over the vote. Ocasio-Cortez, now only in her second House term, has a substantial following on social media and is widely regarded as a leader of House progressives. It has been widely reported that Ocasio-Cortez is considering a challenge to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) in the 2022 New York Democratic primary. Ocasio-Cortez has played hardball politics. Ocasio-Cortez is 31 years-old. She must carefully weigh whether or not she can win statewide office in New York, if her voting record demonstrates hostility to Israel.
Progressive U.S. House members from Texas uniformly supported funding for the Iron Dome. They include Representatives Sheila Jackson-Lee and Sylvia Gonzales of Houston, Lloyd Doggett of Austin and Eddie Bernice Johnson of Dallas.
House Majority Leader Hoyer is a real hero for nimbly scheduling a standalone vote on funding for the Iron Dome Sept. 23. He wasted no time sulking or in publicly recriminating the eight recalcitrant House Democrats dedicated to lambasting Israel. He acted quickly, and by scheduling a standalone vote demonstrated that Congressional support for Israel is overwhelming.
As Rep. Kay Granger (R-Fort Worth) explained on the House floor, it was “very important” to pass the legislation.
“Four months ago, Israel was under attack from terrorists. The rocket fire into Israel was unprecedented. Countless civilian lives were saved because of the Iron Dome system that the United States has supported year-after-year. Due to the attacks last spring, the Dome rocket interceptors need to be replenished,” Granger said.
Texas’ U.S. Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz are both on record as strongly supporting the appropriation. President Biden reaffirmed his commitment to sign legislation authorizing funding, when he recently met with Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.
Congressman Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) spoke for many when he responded to Tlaib’s attacks on Israel, saying he would not “allow one of my colleagues to stand on the floor of the House of Representatives and label the Jewish democratic state of Israel an apartheid state.”
“When there’s no place on the map for one Jewish state, that’s antisemitism,” said Deutch, chairperson of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
At times, our Democratic system falters amid partisan bickering. But, just last week, the Congress overwhelmingly united to support for Israel. The House’s overwhelming vote for funding for the Iron Dome mirrors the widespread support that Israel has from a vast majority of Americans.