congressional comments

Republicans to launch anti-BDS effort on House floor

House Republicans will start collecting signatures Wednesday to bring legislation opposed to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel to the floor for a vote.

Republicans employed the discharge petition to gather a majority of members’ signatures to bring a vote on the bill. A majority would require at least 20 Democrats to sign the petition, should all Republicans sign on.

The anti-BDS legislation is part of a larger package on security in the Middle East (H.R.336), which addresses military spending and activities with Israel and Jordan. Another provision, the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act, that places additional sanctions on people and businesses tied to the Syrian regime.

“The main thing is it’s a good bill,” said Rep. David Kustoff (R-TN), who, along with Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) originally filed the discharge petition. “I think that there should be broad support for it and hopefully we’ll find out over the next few days.”

House Democratic leadership strongly discourages caucus members from supporting Republican-led legislative efforts, such as the “motion to recommit,” a last minute amendment Republicans routinely employ to either advance their agenda or derail Democratic legislation.

Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA) told Jewish Insider that she would have liked to see the Democratic leadership bring H.R.336 to the floor for a vote instead of the Republican petition.

“I would have liked to see leadership bring [H.R.336] to the floor and I would have liked to have an opportunity to vote on it. I’m not sure if I’ll use this [the petition] as the mechanism to put that out there. But I am in support of the bill and were it to come to the floor for a vote I would support it. I’ll look at it and see if I want to join on.”

The bill passed the Senate in February with bipartisan support, in a vote of 77 to 44, but has yet to appear on the Democratic agenda in the House. The BDS provision, “Combating BDS Act of 2019,” allows state or local governments to refuse contracts with companies or individuals that participate in a boycott of Israel.

House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA), is charged with corralling the 218 signatures the petition needs to bring the legislation to the floor for a vote.

“The House must follow the Senate’s lead and take immediate action to support our allies and combat the BDS movement that aims to delegitimize and economically isolate Israel,” Whip Scalise said in a statement last month. “We have to protect states like Louisiana who are already divesting public funds from entities that boycott Israel.”

Republicans, and some Democrats, have taken issue with progressive Democratic members who have disputed the constitutionality of anti-Boycott legislation.

“We will not stand for radically anti-Israel progressives to hide behind Democrat leadership any longer,” Whip Scalise said. “It is our duty to bring H.R. 336 to the floor so every American can know whether or not their representative stands with our greatest ally Israel.”

Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (R-PA), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said it’s unclear if any Democrats will sign the petition, but that he’ll urge them to do so.

“This is something that the far-left can’t water down, so it’s going to force them to take a stand and hopefully they’ll stand with Israel,” he said.

Asked if he believes all Republicans will sign on, Rep. Reschenthaler said, “Of course.” In the past, libertarian Republicans have opposed such legislation out of fiscal or constitutional concern.