letter writing

More than 40 senators offer support for U.S.-Israel missile-defense funding

The letter, sent annually, offers support for $500 million for joint missile-defense programs, including Iron Dome

JALAA MAREY/AFP via Getty Images

A picture taken on August 5, 2021, shows an Iron Dome defense system battery, designed to intercept and destroy incoming short-range rockets and artillery shells, in the Hula Valley in northern Israel near the border with Lebanon.

Forty-one senators from both parties have signed onto a letter, obtained by Jewish Insider, offering support for full funding — $500 million — for joint U.S.-Israel missile defense programs, including Iron Dome, David’s Sling and Arrow and counter-drone programs, in 2024.

The letter, sent last week to Sens. Jon Tester (D-MT) and Susan Collins (R-ME), the chair of the Senate Defense Appropriations subcommittee and the ranking member of the Appropriations Committee, is organized annually by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Mike Rounds (R-SD).

The $500 million is guaranteed annually by the 2016 U.S.-Israel Memorandum of Understanding and was codified into law by Congress, but must be appropriated by Congress annually.

The letter — the text of which is identical to the one sent last year — highlights the critical role of joint missile-defense programs in defending Israel, as well as the importance of counter-drone programs to defending both Israel and U.S. service members from attacks by Iran and its proxies.

The communique was signed by 41 senators, three fewer than the 2022 letter, including 32 Democrats and nine Republicans. Signatories include Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Ted Budd (R-NC), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Bob Casey (D-PA), Chris Coons (D-DE), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), John Fetterman (D-PA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), James Lankford (R-OK), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Ed Markey (D-MA), Roger Marshall (R-KS), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Jon Ossoff (D-GA), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Gary Peters (D-MI), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Rick Scott (R-FL), Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ), Tina Smith (D-MN), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), John Thune (R-SD), J.D. Vance (R-OH), Mark Warner (D-VA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR).

A Gillibrand spokesperson told JI that there was a shorter turnaround time for lawmakers to sign onto the letter this year in light of tighter deadlines from the Appropriations Committee.

Sens. Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Steve Daines (R-MT), Todd Young (R-IN), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Deb Fischer (R-NE), who signed last year’s letter, did not join this year. 

A spokesperson for Young told JI that the senator was out of the country when the letter was circulating and unable to sign on before the deadline, but remains supportive of the funding. A Daines spokesperson said that the office had missed the letter, but that Daines continues to support the program. An individual familiar with the situation told JI that Warnock continues to support the funding and plans to communicate his support for the initiative and the letter to Appropriations Committee staff. The other senators did not respond to requests for comment.

First-term lawmakers Budd, Fetterman and Vance joined the initiative this year.

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