Senate Dems split on pro-Israel package

The Senate voted on Monday 74-19 to advance the Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act of 2019 (S.1), legislation that incorporates four bipartisan bills and includes the reauthorization of the 10-year Memorandum of Understanding that was signed between the U.S. and Israel in 2016, and a measure that would empower state and local governments to counter the BDS movement.

Most Democratic Senators followed the lead of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) in voting in favor of the motion to invoke cloture. Senate Democrats had blocked three previous attempts to reach the 60 vote threshold and stalled its progression because of the government shutdown, which ended last Friday.

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) along with Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Gary Peters (D-MI) were among the 19 Democrats opposing the measure.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) was the only potential 2020 presidential candidate who voted to advance the package. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), who was in Iowa for a live town hall meeting to kick off her presidential bid, and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) missed the vote.

Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), who voted in favor, explained in a statement that while he “appreciates” the wide array of opinions on the anti-BDS measure, “I also recognize that, too often, Israel’s opponents use the BDS movement to delegitimize Israel. I oppose the BDS movement, and I believe it is critical that the United States support the economic stability and political independence of Israel.” The bill, he asserted, “prevents efforts to stifle legitimate business activity between American and Israeli companies.”

Schumer told JI in a statement: “I strongly oppose the BDS movement and I believe that states, like my home state of New York, should be able to pass legislation to combat it.”

Sanders explained his vote on Twitter: “While I do not support the BDS movement, we must defend every American’s constitutional right to peacefully engage in political activity. It is clear to me that S.1 would violate Americans’ First Amendment rights.”

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