Bickering in Senate over BDS, border funding

The Senate is scheduled to vote today on a motion to proceed to open debate on the Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act of 2019 — legislation that would authorize U.S. military assistance to Israel and empower local governments to take up anti-BDS measures. However, a growing number of Democrats have announced their opposition to the legislation until the Republicans call a vote on the House-passed bills to reopen the government.

Following the lead of Senators Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin from Maryland, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer announced yesterday that he will vote against the procedural vote in protest of the ongoing shutdown. McConnell spokesman Don Stewart said in response, “It would be a stunning reversal for Sen. Schumer to suddenly block security assistance to Israel simply because he can’t work out his differences with President Trump on an unrelated matter.”

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) claimed on Monday that Senate Democrats are using the shutdown as a cover for divisions within the Democratic caucus over the anti-BDS measure. “A huge argument broke out at [a] Senate Dem meeting last week over BDS,” Rubio wrote on Twitter. “A significant number of Senate Democrats now support BDS and Dem leaders want to avoid a floor vote that reveals that.”

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), who serves with Rubio on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, disputed that characterization. “You know it isn’t true that ‘a significant number of Senate Dems support BDS’. [It’s] really dangerous to play politics with support for Israel,” Murphy tweeted.

A Senate Democratic source tells Jewish Insider‘s Jacob Kornbluh: “Rubio’s tweet is inaccurate and doesn’t portray the meeting as it happened, which its focus was, amongst the caucus, to do everything possible to reopen the government, and not hold agencies that have nothing to do with paying for a wall hostage. If we’re going to be voting on stuff that has already passed the House, it should be the bill that reopens the government. This is more of a distraction attempt. Re-open the government and then consider all the bills that are brought to the floor.”

AIPAC spokesperson Marshall Wittmann emails us: “We strongly support this legislation which contains pro-Israel provisions that have previously gained wide bipartisan support – and we urge the Senate to move as quickly as possible to adopt it.”

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