on the hill

Anti-BDS resolution divides Democrats

AP

Rep. Rashida Tlaib.

Progressive Democrats are charging that a congressional resolution condemning the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement is a violation of First Amendment rights. 

A bipartisan bill opposing the movement is expected to advance through committee next week, paving the way for a vote on the House floor, and dividing Democrats. 

“The core of the bill… is suppressing people that criticize the country,” Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) told Jewish Insider on Thursday. 

Tlaib, the first Palestinian-American woman in Congress, has tweeted that the bill is unconstitutional. 

About 69 Democrats have yet to sign on the bill, which will be marked up in the House Foreign Affairs Committee next week. Among those holding off on signing include Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), co-chair of the Progressive Caucus.

“I think there are a lot of people, and it’s not just progressives, who feel that this issue is being used by Republicans to try and divide Democrats,” Jayapal told JI. “And that comes from people who oppose BDS. I’m not sure this is the right time to be bringing that resolution forward.” 

Many members of the Progressive Caucus have already signed on to the bill, while some of those holding out are not part of the caucus.

The resolution was authored by Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL). 

Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia (D-CA), who is also withholding his signature, said he’s consulting with groups concerned about freedom of speech violations before deciding to sign on to the resolution. 

“I have not endorsed the BDS [movement]… but I am concerned about conflicts with the First Amendment.”

Proponents of the resolution say that charges of unconstitutionality are unfounded. 

“It’s very hard to have an unconstitutional resolution,” said Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA). “Freedom of speech starts with the representatives of the American people. We have a constitutional right to express our views. So, it’s very hard to see how a resolution could violate the constitution. It’s very hard to find a constitutional scholar that thinks that Schneider’s bill raises any issues. So I don’t know what she’s concerned about.”

The resolution — which condemns the global BDS movement for opposing the existence of Israel, and says it is destructive of efforts toward a two-state solution — has 336 co-sponsors.

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