Menendez Signals Openness to Taylor Force Act

WASHINGTON – Democratic Senator Bob Menendez showed openness on Tuesday to consider backing the Taylor Force Act, a bill calling on the US to cut its financial assistance to the Palestinian Authority if payments to terrorists’ family members persist. When asked about the legislation, Menendez told Jewish Insider,  “I have a degree of sympathy for finding ways to change the Palestinian Authority’s views that you support people who are dedicated to killing Jews — whether that is a more calibrated denial of money versus what I am hearing, which is an outright cut, — is the only question for me. I think something should be done.”

At a press conference on February 28 to introduce the bill along with Senator Tom Cotton (R-AK) and Roy Blunt (R-MI), Lindsey Graham (R-SC)  predicted that the Taylor Force Act “if it gets to the Senate floor it will be overwhelmingly passed,” while assuring that President Donald Trump would sign the legislation.

At the same time, the New Jersey lawmaker is looking to consult with the Israeli government about the legislation, which could have dramatic impact in the West Bank. “I don’t know that Israel needs a collapsed Palestinian Authority next door to them,” he added. Menendez was one of only two Democratic Senators to vote for David Friedman as US Ambassador to Israel in last week’s vote and also jointed with the Republicans against the Iranian nuclear agreement.

The Taylor Force Act was introduced last Congressional session but failed to pass the Senate and obtained no Democratic support.

Ranking Democratic Member Ben Cardin (D-MD) told Jewish Insider on March 2, “I generally don’t support an approach that could jeopardize needed assistance for stability in the West Bank.” Chairman Bob Corker echoed his Democratic counterpart, cautioning, “I think there is probably a more targeted way of dealing with that issue.”

Christians United for Israel (CUFI) is aggressively lobbying for the bill while AIPAC did not include the legislation in its priorities this week when members lobby Capitol Hill during the annual Policy Conference. The bill is currently waiting in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for approval where Chairman Corker would need to bring the Taylor Force Act to a committee vote, which often is a lengthy process. As a Democratic Senator, Menendez supporting the legislation could force AIPAC to take a clear position on the legislation, as it generally only backs bipartisan efforts.

The bill was named after a US military officer who was stabbed to death by a Palestinian terrorist while participating in a study abroad program in Israel.

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