Sen. Carper: ACLU’s objections motivation for declining to co-sponsor anti-BDS bill

Progressive Senators may still vote for the legislation but they are holding off from co-sponsoring until they receive clarification from Senator Ben Cardin

WASHINGTON – With the Israel Anti-Boycott Act receiving considerable attention on Capitol Hill, Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) revealed that the American Civil Liberty Union’s “legitimate concerns” led him to decline to co-sponsor the bill. “I have not co-sponsored the legislation,” the Delaware lawmaker told Jewish Insider. “The ACLU raises some serious concerns about free speech and possible violations of free speech, and those concerns were part of the reason why a number of us chose not to co-sponsor the legislation.”

In March, Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) introduced S.720 to combat the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. The bipartisan legislation would expand the 1970s era laws prohibiting compliance with boycotts against Israel by foreign governments to include boycotts organized by international organizations. AIPAC has placed the Israel Anti-Boycott Act as one of its top legislative priorities for 2017. At the same time, the ACLU has opposed the bill due to First Amendment concerns.

A co-sponsor of the legislation, Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) explained that there will be changes to the measure. “There are some things that we can do with the bill to clarify language and I think Senator Cardin is working on it. The bill will evolve and there will be changes in the language. That’s part of the process, people are having input in it,” he said.

The next step for the legislation would be a vote in the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee. Unlike the Taylor Force Act, which quickly earned a hearing and markup at the committee level, S.720 appears to have stalled.

Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO), who is up for reelection in 2018, co-sponsored the bill. She noted however, “I think we have to take a look at the language to make sure that clarifies it won’t impinge on any individual’s rights.”

Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is taking a more cautious approach. “Many of us who have concerns have been talking with Ben (Cardin) and his team a lot about it. I am hopeful we can work through any concerns about the bill,” he said. “I have not made a decision to oppose it. I am not a co-sponsor of it. I think we can make it better. I am not going to negotiate it in public with him (Cardin). I am sure that I don’t completely agree with the ACLU.”

Subscribe now to
the Daily Kickoff

The politics and business news you need to stay up to date, delivered each morning in a must-read newsletter.