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June 8, 2012

House rejects increase to U.S.-Israel energy cooperation funding

http://www.jewishjournal.com/nation/article/house_rejects_increase_to_us-israel_energy_cooperation_funding_20120608

The western front of the United States Capitol.

The western front of the United States Capitol.

The U.S. House of Representatives voted down a Democratic procedural motion to the energy appropriations bill that would have provided additional funds for U.S.-Israel energy cooperation programs.

The motion to recommit the legislation back to the Appropriations Committee would have allocated an additional $1 million to the $2 million already in the bill for the programs.

The procedural vote was defeated 233-185 mostly on party lines with one Republican lawmaker, Rep. Tom Latham of Iowa, voting for the motion to recommit.

This is at least the fourth such attempt this Congress by Democrats to add pro-Israel language to a bill at the last minute. Republicans have accused Democrats of using the motions to recommit to score political points.

During floor debate, Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-Iowa), who offered the motion, said the additional funds were in the U.S. interest. 

“Israel is our strongest ally in the Middle East, without question, and one of our strongest allies across the globe,” Boswell said. “And, as such, our ability to work together to advance the interests of both our nations is crucial.” Boswell said.

Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.), the chairman of the Appropriations energy subcommittee, argued that the $2 million already in the bill was the figure proposed by lawmakers who back the program, and said there was no need for an additional increase.

“This is a completely unwarranted increase, considering our bill already maintains funding for this very important program at last year’s level, even while we’ve cut so many programs in our bill to stay within the budget,” Frelinghuysen said on the House floor.

In March, a bipartisan, bicameral group of 44 senators and congressman sent a letter to Appropriations Committee leaders, urging them to ensure the $2 million of funds for U.S.-Israel energy cooperation. 

That appropriations request was led by Reps. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), Robert Dold (R-Ill.) and Aaron Schock (R-Ill.), along with Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

Following the vote on the motion to recommit, David Harris, president and CEO of the National Democratic Jewish Council, criticized House Republicans.

“It is very disheartening that so many pro-Israel Republicans who believe in American energy independence voted the way they did,” Harris said in a press statement.

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