Democrats strip $1B for Israel's Iron Dome from government funding bill

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House Democratic leaders on Tuesday removed $1 billion in funding for Israel's Iron Dome defense system from a must-pass spending bill that will avert a government shutdown after backlash from progressive lawmakers.

The money, which would have been used to replenish Israel's Iron Dome system after a conflict with Gaza earlier this year, was removed after a group of left-wing Democrats threatened to vote against the continuing resolution, which will keep the government funded through early December and also includes language to raise the $28 trillion debt ceiling. 

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The $1 billion in funding will instead be attached to the annual defense funding bill later this year, according to House Rules Chairman James McGovern, D-Mass.

The division over the Iron Dome money reflects a growing schism in the Democratic Party over the U.S. relationship with Israel, with progressives like Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., urging President Biden to take a tougher stance, including conditioning the billions in aid it provides to Israel. 

Biden pledged that the U.S. would replenish Israel's Iron Dome defense system, as Iran pursues becoming a nuclear power, during a meeting last month with new Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.

Ocasio-Cortez and Pressley did not respond when asked by Fox News whether they were part of the resistance against the Iron Dome funding. 

Moderate Democrats slammed the decision to punt the funding to the year-end appropriations package. 

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"Iron Dome is a purely *defensive* system – it protects civilians when hundreds of rockets are shot at population centers," tweeted Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich. "Whatever your views on the Israeli-Pal conflict, using a system that just saved hundreds, if not thousands, of lives as a political chit is problematic." 

"Earlier this year, Hamas fired thousands of missiles into Israel and led a violent campaign against Israeli civilians. The Iron Dome – which has long enjoyed bipartisan support – proved to be Israel’s best line of defense from these attacks and saved thousands of innocent lives," said Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis. 

"It’s a complete disgrace that Speaker Pelosi caved to radical, anti-Israel elements within her caucus and stripped funding for this critical system from the continuing resolution. Speaker Pelosi clearly doesn’t run her caucus anymore. The Squad does," said Gallagher.

Although the House is expected to pass the funding measure on a party-line basis on Tuesday, Senate Republicans have vowed to block the bill in the upper chamber, where 46 GOP lawmakers have promised to block any legislation that suspends or raises the debt ceiling. 

Democrats would need to secure the support of at least 10 GOP lawmakers in the Senate to defeat a filibuster.

"We will not support legislation that raises the debt limit," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Monday after Democratic leaders announced they would link the debt ceiling measure to the short-term spending bill. "Democrats do not need our help."

The battle to raise the government's borrowing limit carries big risks for the broader economy: With the total debt standing at $28.5 trillion, the government would be forced to slash federal aid programs unless the cap is either suspended or lifted.

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Biden has argued that Democrats joined with GOP lawmakers three times under the Trump administration to suspend the limit, and that the rising deficit is due in large part to spending approved under his predecessor, including a $900 billion coronavirus relief package that lawmakers approved last December. He's argued that the sweeping tax and spending package Democrats are still crafting will be fully paid for. 

"This is a bipartisan responsibility, just as it was under my predecessor," Biden tweeted on Monday. "Blocking it would be inexcusable."

The Treasury Department began implementing so-called extraordinary measures to keep the government running after the debt limit was reinstated in August at around $22 trillion – about $6 trillion less than the actual level. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has told Congress the federal government will run out of cash to pay its bills sometime in October.

Without congressional action, the U.S. could default on its debt sometime in October, potentially triggering an "economic catastrophe," Yellen said in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed.

Fox News' Kelly Phares contributed to this report 

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