Trent Kelly and Merle Flowers

U.S. Rep. Trent Kelly (left) and former state Sen. Merle Flowers talk about their recent visits to Israel as part of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee last year during the Tuesday meeting of the Rotary Club of Olive Branch.

The recent shutdown of the federal government took place due to Senate inaction on funding bills the House of Representatives passed on to them months ago, according to Mississippi First District Rep. Trent Kelly (R-Saltillo).

Federal operations were put nearly at a complete standstill, except for essential services, last weekend when senators failed to pass a spending bill to fund the government.

The Senate Monday did pass a bill that temporarily funds the federal government through Feb. 8 on a vote of 81-18. The House followed suit with approval by a margin of 266-150. President Donald Trump signed the measure Monday evening.

In Olive Branch for the weekly Rotary Club meeting, where Kelly and former state Sen. Merle Flowers spoke about their visits to Israel last summer and fall with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), Kelly expressed frustration that senators could not come to an agreement on appropriations measures that House members had voted on last September.

“The House of Representatives sent all 12 appropriations bills in September to the Senate and they have taken no action,” Kelly said. “The House did our job in September like we were required to do and the Senate has not taken them up. They have the full funding measures from the House that have been in the Senate since September.”

Kelly, recently promoted to Brigadier General status in the Mississippi Army National Guard, added the shutdown directly affected him as a member of the Guard.

“I literally got furloughed from Guard drill this weekend because of this shutdown like many other Guardsmen did who won’t be paid for their Guard service,” said Kelly. “Different issues need to be debated and they need to come to the floor. They don’t need to be tied to another and we never should be taking advantage of our government and our soldiers by shutting down the government.”

The Senate approval of the temporary spending bill came without direct attachments on the issue of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) issue for children of illegal immigrants.

It did, however, come after a promise by Republican leaders to bring the issue up for future debate and vote on the Senate floor.

Kelly and Flowers were not in Olive Branch Tuesday to talk about DACA or federal shutdowns, however. Both have taken trips to Israel with AIPAC, a bipartisan American pro-Israel lobby, to learn about the culture of the Middle Eastern nation that daily deals with threats from its Arab neighbors bent on eliminating the Jewish state.

Most recently, the issue of President Trump’s decision to move the American embassy to Jerusalem has been met with both vocal support and opposition worldwide.

“That issue had been decided a long time ago under the Clinton administration,” Flowers said. “We actually got the see the site adjacent to our consulate in Jerusalem that we believe the government has determined where the embassy is going to go. I hope that is what plays out and we actually recognize Jerusalem as the proper capital city of Israel.”

“I know the government of Israel has been asking for that for a long time,” Kelly added.

Kelly and Flowers said the AIPAC visit allowed them to visit with both Israelis and Palestinians to learn how the two sides co-exist.

“They send Americans over there to help improve relationships and expose Americans to what is happening in the Middle East,” Flowers said.

Both men talked about being able to visit sites mentioned in the Bible and how the Holy Land came to life for them, with Kelly noting how reading the Sermon on the Mount to his group at its actual location was a special moment.

“I literally got every word out without crying,” Kelly said. “It is overwhelming to stand in those places and the emotions are so great.”

But Flowers added in the face of daily threats, Israel has become a progressive nation of technology and entrepreneurs.

“Israel has about eight million people,” said Flowers. “They have a pretty massive ‘think tank’ and their technology systems are very impressive. We’re not shooting at people along our borders, but they are and we get the benefit of their technology because we share with each other.”

Bob Bakken is Staff Writer and may be reached at 662-429-6397 ext. 240.

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