House Republican move for a vote on rejecting BDS

House Republicans are working towards a vote rejecting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel, in an effort to get around Democrats stalling on bringing key Israel legislation to the floor.

Minority whip Steve Scalise (R-LA), along with Representatives Mike McCaul (R-TX), David Kustoff (R-TN) and Lee Zeldin (R-NY) introduced Wednesday a rule to discharge petition on the bill “Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East.” which passed the Senate in February.

The House companion bill was introduced in January by Rep. McCaul as H.R. 336. There are at least four parts to the bill regarding America’s involvement in the Middle East.

The latest move by Republicans, called a “discharge petition”, is a savvy legislative tool that allows anyone to bring legislation for a vote if a majority of sponsors are collected. In May, Republicans will have to collect 218 signatures, at least 21 from Democrats, to bring the bill to a vote on the floor.

“The Senate responded quickly and decisively with appropriate legislation to counter the dangerous BDS movement, but Speaker Pelosi has refused to bring this bipartisan bill to the House Floor and House Democrats stood idly by as their colleagues made senseless anti-Semitic remarks,” said Whip Scalise in a statement. “We will not stand for radically anti-Israel progressives to hide behind Democrat leadership any longer. 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.”

“Israel is our greatest ally in the Middle East and we must continue to do all we can to support and protect her. Movements like the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign should be condemned on a bipartisan basis,” Rep. Kustoff said in a statement. “It is in the national security interest of the United States to combat anti-semitism around the world, and I hope my colleagues on both sides of the aisle can stand with me in combatting this hatred.”

House Democrats have publicly condemned BDS, most recently Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) while speaking at the AIPAC Conference. But there has been little movement on bringing BDSrelated legislation to the house floor.

This includes a resolution putting Congress on record opposing and rejecting BDS, and a bill introduced by Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) last month, the “United States-Israel Cooperation Enhancement and Regional Security Act.”

Republicans, on the other hand, have seized on perceived fractures within the Democratic party, over anti-Israel comments made by  freshmen, progressive members Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY).

Last week, Republicans failed to pass an amendment condemning BDS, attaching the resolution to a bill directing the end of U.S. involvement in the war in Yemen. All but five Democrats voted down the measure, called a motion to recommit, and criticized Republicans for playing politics with the bipartisan relationship on Israel.

“It should have passed, I think we ought to speak with on voice, unequivocally and unapologetically, that’s why I voted yes,” Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) told Jewish Insider.

“House Democrats are being held hostage by the radical left, refusing to stand against this hateful movement that seeks to delegitimize Israel,” Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (R-PA) said. “This shouldn’t be a partisan issue. We all need to stand firmly behind our ally.”

On the move to invoke the discharge  petition, Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) said it’s important for the House to acknowledge the threat of BDS as an antisemitic attack on Israel’s economy “not free speech.”

“You can¹t say you support Israel militarily and diplomatically, but are okay with BDS. You can¹t have it both ways,” he wrote in an email to Jewish Insider. “Unfortunately we’re seeing division in the traditional bipartisan support for the Jewish State. There is no reason we can’t do what we’ve historically done and work together on issues that affect Israel.”

AIPAC spokesman Marshall Wittman said that the organization is working with both parties to bring the bill to a successful vote.

“AIPAC strongly supported S.1 in the Senate. We are working on a bipartisan basis with the House and the relevant committee leadership to find a path forward to adopt each component of S.1.”

Laura Kelly is the Capitol Hill reporter for Jewish Insider. Follow her @HelloLauraKelly

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