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New continuing resolution includes $6.3B for Afghans, $1B for Iron Dome

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WASHINGTON ― Lawmakers have proposed $6.3 billion in emergency funding to resettle Afghan refugees, $1 billion for the Iron Dome air defense system and other Pentagon-friendly provisions in a stopgap government funding bill to avoid a government shutdown after Sept. 30.

House Democrats offered a continuing resolution through Dec. 3 with a marquee provision to support Afghan evacuees. It would pay to temporarily house evacuees at American facilities overseas as well as screen them and resettle eligible evacuees in the U.S., a summary read.

The bill would also require a report on the disposition of property, equipment and supplies that were destroyed, were taken out of Afghanistan or are still in Afghanistan in connection with the U.S. military withdrawal. In the Taliban’s takeover of the country, the militant group recovered U.S.-supplied guns, ammunition, helicopters and other modern military equipment from Afghan forces who surrendered it.

Democratic leaders have announced both chambers will vote on the continuing resolution soon, but efforts to pass it are complicated because Democrats included language to suspend the country’s debt limit for another year.

Raising the prospect of a government shutdown, Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky warned Monday that Republicans won’t vote for a debt ceiling hike, but do favor a “clean continuing resolution that included appropriate disaster relief and targeted Afghan assistance.” House Appropriations Committee ranking member Kay Granger, R-Texas, on Tuesday said House Republicans will oppose a debt ceiling hike as well.

Meant to buy time for spending negotiations for 2022, the bill includes provisions aimed at government functions beyond defense. “It is critical that Congress swiftly pass this legislation to support critical education, health, housing and public safety programs and provide emergency help for disaster survivors and Afghan evacuees,” House Appropriations Committee Chair Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., said Tuesday.

Making good on a pledge from President Joe Biden earlier this year, the legislation would also add $1 billion to replenish Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system after Israeli forces used it against rocket attacks by Hamas in May.

Another $885 million in Air Force research funding would continue the Strategic Microelectronic Supply program, backing the defense budget request’s emphasis on cutting-edge defense technologies. Another would protect the Pentagon’s efforts to field jam-resistant GPS equipment.

If lawmakers don’t include anomalies like these, continuing resolutions typically only continue spending at the prior year’s level and prevent new-start programs from moving forward.

Following a call from the Biden administration for the inclusion of added funds, the continuing resolution contains $28.6 billion in disaster relief funding. Of that, it offers $565 million for the Navy and $330 million for the Air Force to repair facilities damaged by natural disasters in 2020 and 2021.

The bill also extends the authority for the Defense Department to obligate funds during the period of the continuing resolution for military construction projects that first received funding in fiscal 2017.

Joe Gould is the Congress reporter for Defense News.

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