Republican Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul repeatedly objected to a bill that would provide $1 billion in funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system, arguing that the funding should come out of aid for Afghanistan.
The funding bill passed the House on Sept. 23 after left-wing Democrats decoupled it from a broader government funding package. Paul first blocked a snap vote on the bill on Monday, and did so again on Thursday, raising the ire of Democratic Sens. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Jacky Rosen of Nevada. (RELATED: Ocasio-Cortez Explains Her Tears, Vote On Iron Dome Funding)
“There’s $6 billion left in a reconstruction fund for the Afghan national government. Well, the Afghan national government no longer exists,” Paul said, calling the move “a very easy pay-for.”
Paul expressed concern that the reconstruction funds could go to the Taliban, and accused Democrats of holding up the Israel money by not voting for his amendment.
“I asked Secretary [of State Antony] Blinken, this $6 billion, are you planning on giving it to the Taliban? And he says, well, it depends on whether they fulfill their commitments. To me it sounds like a pretty big if, but if the Biden administration says that they fulfill their commitment and expectations, the understanding is the Biden administration is going to give $6 billion to the Taliban.”
“I don’t care if the Taliban behaves, I wouldn’t give them a penny. There are other ways of trying to have a diplomatic relationship other than giving money to people,” Paul continued.
“This is a false issue,” Blumenthal shot back. “Section 9021 of the Fiscal Year 2021 Defense Appropriations Act, we all voted for it – makes funding the Taliban illegal. If any Pentagon official breaks that law, they could go to jail under the Anti-Deficiency Act.”
“The funds that the Paul Amendment seeks to rescind have actually not yet been appropriated,” he added.
When Paul refused to withdraw his objection to the bill, Rosen slammed it as “unacceptable.”
“This is no time for political games. It could jeopardize the support for our allies and people in need of lifesaving assistance,” she said.
Terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad fired more than 4,000 rockets into Israel in summer 2021. The Iron Dome, first deployed in 2011, prevented the vast majority of them from reaching their targets.
During floor debate in the House of Representatives over the aid package, Democratic Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib faced bipartisan condemnation after she accused the Israeli government of apartheid. Eight Democrats and one Republican in the House voted against the package, which passed 420-9.