Lessons from the Iron Dome Vote

October 1, 2021

By former Congressman Ron Klein and Halie Soifer

On September 23, the House of Representatives approved a supplemental appropriation of $1 billion for Iron Dome by a vote of 420-9-2, with 96% of House Democrats voting in favor of additional funding for the defensive missile shield that has saved countless lives. The Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA) strongly supports full funding for U.S. military aid to Israel, which includes funding for Iron Dome. 

During the Gaza conflict in May, Hamas indiscriminately fired approximately 4,400 rockets at civilians in Israel. The Iron Dome missile defense system met its sole purpose in intercepting incoming rockets launched against civilian targets inside Israel, yet it came at a cost in terms of depleting its stockpile of interceptors. The same day Israel and Hamas announced a ceasefire, President Biden made a commitment to Israel to replenish the Iron Dome.

The Iron Dome not only saves Israeli lives, but also helps to mitigate further conflict between Israeli and Palestinians. Jewish Democrats believe that the loss of any innocent life is tragic, and the Iron Dome prevents escalation of violence that could lead to more death on both sides of the Israel-Gaza border. 

The stand-alone vote in the House on September 23 was necessitated by unanimous Republican opposition to including Iron Dome funding in the continuing resolution two days earlier. With all Republicans refusing to cross party lines to keep the government open and fund Iron Dome, a small handful of Democrats opposed to including the funding in the continuing resolution were able to hijack the process. Consequently, Democratic leadership decided to break the bill into two parts. The continuing resolution passed without any Republican votes, and then two days later, the Iron Dome legislation passed with overwhelming bipartisan support.

Sadly, this was not the first time Republicans opposed measures containing aid to Israel. Republicans have opposed aid to Israel three times in the FY22 appropriations process alone, and in July of this year, the House passed $3.3 billion in aid to Israel solely with Democratic votes. Even today, the Iron Dome funding is being held up in the Senate by a sole Republican Senator, Rand Paul. Jewish Dems fully support funding for all of Israel’s security needs, and we will continue to do so.

Jewish Dems also strongly reject the arguments made by the small handful of Democrats against the funding of Iron Dome, including the incendiary and unacceptable rhetoric of Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) on the floor of the House during the debate. Opposition to funding Iron Dome is contrary to the policies and positions of the Democratic Party, antithetical to U.S. national security interests, and violates the commitment President Biden made to Israel.

At the same time, we reject repeated attempts by the Republican Party to turn Israel into a political wedge issue for their own partisan purposes. They knew full well that one way or another the continuing resolution would pass the House, but they refused to cross over to support the Iron Dome. And House Republicans repeatedly use motions to recommit, an arcane procedural tool, to play politics with U.S. support for Israel. We call on the GOP to leave politics aside when it comes to Israel and join us in reiterating the strong bipartisan support for Israel that for decades has been a hallmark of U.S. foreign policy.

We also refuse to allow anyone to misrepresent the Democratic Party by making false and absurd claims about alleged diminished support for Israel. In fact, as the Iron Dome vote proved, the Democratic Party remains overwhelmingly pro-Israel and is the only party that reflects the values of most Jewish Americans on domestic issues, which is why that the Democratic Party remains the political home of American Jewish voters.