new legislation

Senate Republicans reintroduce Hamas sanctions legislation

A Democratic aide suggested the GOP ‘decided to go it alone’ despite Democratic support for the underlying legislation

Saul Loeb-Pool/Getty Images

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduces former US Senator Bill Nelson, nominee to be administrator of NASA, at a Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill on April 21, 2021 in Washington, D.C.

Following last month’s conflict between Israel and Gaza, Senate Republicans led by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced a bill Friday seeking to impose sanctions on individuals, entities and governments that provide support to Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian terrorist groups in response to their rocket attacks targeting Israel. 

“As these terrorist groups continue to show zero regard for the loss of innocent lives and threaten our ally, Israel, I’m proud to reintroduce this bill which seeks to impose sanctions against foreign nationals and governments who are actively providing material support to these groups,” Rubio said in a statement. “We must hold accountable the individuals who are aiding the terrorist activities of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.”

Nearly identical legislation passed the House in 2019 with bipartisan support by a voice vote but stalled in the Senate. The Senate companion bill to the 2019 legislation, introduced by Rubio and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), gathered 26 additional cosponsors, including 10 Democrats. No Senate Democrats have yet signed onto the reintroduced legislation — but that is due to the timing, rather than the content, of the bill, a Senate Democratic aide told JI. 

“There is bipartisan support for holding Hamas accountable for its long history of terrorist activity in the region,” the aide said. “It’s regrettable that Senate Republicans decided to go it alone on legislation that has had Democratic support in the past. The focus over the past few weeks has been on facilitating de-escalation in the region and supporting Israel’s right to defend itself. To introduce this bill now without partners across the aisle is disappointing.”

Rubio reintroduced the legislation with 15 Republicans: Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Todd Young (R-IN), John Hoeven (R-ND), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Mike Braun (R-IN), John Boozman (R-AR), Rick Scott (R-FL), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Roger Wicker (R-MS), James Lankford (R-OK), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Bill Hagerty (R-TN) and Josh Hawley (R-MO).

AIPAC spokesman Marshall Wittman told JI, “We support this important legislation and hope Congress will work in a bipartisan way toward passage.”

The legislation was reintroduced in the House in January by Reps. Brian Mast (R-FL) and Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), and currently has 47 cosponsors, 10 of them Democrats.

Although the House legislation has Democratic cosponsors, Republicans have attempted to portray the legislation as a partisan issue. In mid-May, Mast attempted a procedural move to bring the sanctions bill to the House floor in lieu of considering legislation on opioid addiction treatment and condemning anti-Asian hate crimes. Democrats — including those who cosponsored the legislation — voted unanimously against Mast’s procedural move, which Republicans have sought to frame as a vote against the legislation itself and against sanctioning Hamas.

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