Controversial Iron Dome vote masks GOP debt ceiling plot
There has been intense discussion about how a handful of Democratic members of Congress last week caused a delay on a vote to suspend the debt ceiling and fund the government because the original bill provided funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system.
Republican leaders have declared the entire Democratic Party under “the anti-Semitic influence of their radical members. Brett stephens lamented in the New York Times, a “weight of shame” fell on Democrats this week. Even moderate activists lamented an apparent change in the party, with the shoe ultimately dropping long-standing Democratic support for Israel.
But what the vote really revealed was not a new change within the Democratic Party, but rather a new willingness by Congressional Republicans to obstruct legislation in a tightly divided Congress, even at Israel’s expense.
Iron Dome enjoys longstanding bipartisan support as it is the most direct way to save innocent lives from terrorism. With extraordinary precision, Iron Dome wipes out rockets fired indiscriminately from Gaza. Even Democratic members frustrated by Israel’s intransigence towards the Palestinians in the past voted overwhelmingly to fund Iron Dome. MPs could say, âI do not agree with Israeli policy, but I strongly support Israel’s right to defend itself against deadly attacks.
The 420-9 the stand-alone vote that took place last Thursday confirmed this dynamic and was comparable to other votes in defense of Israel that I have seen in my decade and a half on Capitol Hill.
The fact that a few members protested the inclusion of Iron Dome in government funding and debt ceiling legislation alone should not have been enough to make the bill fail. In 2014, only eight members – four Democrats and four Republicans – opposite an emergency supplementary bill for the defense of Israel. This bill was still passed by an overwhelming majority, despite marginal opposition. Likewise, nine members (8 Democrats and 1 Republican), opposed last week’s vote, but the measure was still adopted with more than 400 votes.
So why has government finance and debt ceiling legislation faced headwinds, as other recent Israeli finance bills have been passed in the House? If the Democratic Party was so firmly in the grip of a few members, as the GOP leadership claims, why the majority leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerHouse looks set to withdraw infrastructure vote amid stubborn deadlock Senate Democrats consider government funding bill without increasing debt Democrats scramble for strategy to avoid default MORE (Maryland.), announce the same day he would table an Iron Dome fundraising bill on the floor the same week, and why did almost all Democrats support him?
In truth, the events of last Tuesday have little to do with a select group of members wielding more influence, but rather the extraordinarily slim margins of any bill passed in the House these days. On September 21, only four votes could have defeated the bill, not only because of four Democrats, but because the entire GOP conference was prepared to vote against the measure.
The GOP probably “sees an opportunityâBy repealing debt ceiling legislation and opposing government funding. He stuck to that strategy, even though it risked a catastrophic government shutdown and default on US debt, and even if it meant blocking life-saving legislation for Israel. Regardless of the perspective on the merits of such a strategy, the steps Democrats needed to secure passage of the bill had little to do with Israel and much more to mitigate the impact of the maneuvers. of the GOP, that the Democrats strike down as a refusal to work cooperatively to keep government open and ensure America can continue to pay its bills.
One party could previously challenge the other to oppose an Israel-funded bill. As Republicans demonstrated last Tuesday, this is no longer the case; last week’s vote indicates that the notion of Israeli funding serving as a defense against opposition to the legislation no longer works.
Israel’s proverbial shoe could drop at some point, and Democrats must grapple with an ever-changing dynamic within the party, but last week’s vote was not that time. Quite the contrary, he revealed a GOP ready to prioritize its long-term strategy of reconciliation over the immediate adoption of Iron Dome funding.
Fortunately, the episode led to an extraordinary statement of support for Israel and provided a realistic indication of where Congress is on this issue, a development that should be celebrated by supporters of both parties.
Daniel Silverberg co-leads the national security practice of Capstone LLC. He was previously national security adviser to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer from 2014 to 2021.