The Senate Failed to Send $225 Million in Aid to Israel (For About Half a Day)

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Aug. 1 2014 3:39 PM

The Senate Failed to Send $225 Million in Aid to Israel (For About Half a Day)

The headline was unthinkable, until it was real: Senate blocks aid to Israel. Senate Democrats initially packed $225 million of aid to Israel (to fund the Iron Dome) missile defense into their immigration supplemental, but when that got stuck they broke the bill apart. The Israel portion should have been easy, but Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn—who is retiring in a few months—refused to go along with unanimous consent.

"We're gonna be asked today, probably seven or 10 times, to pass pieces of legislation that the very cost for will fall on the backs of our children," said Coburn. "To ask us to spend $200 million here or $2 billion here ... without doing the hard work of not transferring debt to our children is unacceptable to me. If you want to pass any bill by unanimous consent, you better find some waste, or I'm gonna object."

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Coburn sounded resolute. He'd get heat for blocking aid, he said, but "our children and our grandchildren are worth any kind of heat ... I want to defend Israel. I want to supply 'em. I also want our children to have a future."

Less than a day later, Coburn relented. The aid passed unanimously, and Senate leaders took the floor to promise that America would "stand beside its best friend in the world" (Mitch McConnell) and send a "signal that we are with the Israelis."

(My question to Coburn's office, about what changed his mind, has not been answered.)

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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