Targeting terror

Rubio, Republicans reintroduce bill targeting supporters of Palestinian terror groups

The updated bill includes a provision allowing Congress to direct the president to consider imposing sanctions on particular individuals and entities

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) leaves the Senate Chamber following a vote at the U.S. Capitol on May 10, 2023 in Washington, DC.

Nearly a dozen Republicans reintroduced a bill last week directing the president to sanction individuals, entities and governments providing support to Palestinian terrorist groups, including Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

The bill has been introduced in the Senate twice before, but struggled to progress both times. It underwent some significant changes before being reintroduced last week. When first introduced in the Senate in 2019, the bill had significant bipartisan support, but was reintroduced in 2021 with only Republican support. 

In the House, companion legislation has maintained bipartisan backing, and most recently passed the House as part of the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act, but was not included in the final bill negotiated with the Senate. It had also passed the House in 2019 by a voice vote, but stalled in the Senate.

The latest Senate bill, titled the “Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad International Terrorism Support Prevention Act,” includes a new provision that would create a process for the chair and ranking member of several congressional committees to nominate individuals and entities to be sanctioned, requiring the administration to evaluate whether to impose those sanctions and report back to Congress.

The provision comes amid persistent accusations from Republicans that the Biden administration has failed to properly and fully enforce U.S. sanctions, particularly those on Iran, which is a leading sponsor of Palestinian terrorist groups.

The new legislation also places a time limit on presidential authority to waive the sanctions on governments supporting terror groups, limiting the waiver authority for those sanctions to two years after the legislation is enacted. After that point, the sanctions could only be terminated if the administration can affirm that the sanctioned entity no longer supports terrorism or will support terrorism going forward.

The new bill also expands the scope of the prior legislation, which targeted Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and their affiliates to cover a broader range of Palestinian terrorist groups.

The bill is being sponsored by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and co-sponsored by Sens. Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Mike Braun (R-IN), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Rick Scott (R-FL), John Hoeven (R-ND), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Bill Hagerty (R-TN), Steve Daines (R-MT) and Todd Young (R-IN).

When the bill was reintroduced in 2021, a Democratic aide said timing issues, rather than the content of the bill, were responsible for its lack of Democratic support, but insisted that Democrats supported the underlying initiative. It’s unclear whether any Senate Democrats will support the updated bill.

“As these terrorist groups continue to show no regard for the people of Israel, I’m proud to reintroduce this bill, which seeks to impose sanctions against foreign nationals and governments that are actively providing material support to these groups,” Rubio said in a statement. “We must hold accountable the individuals who are aiding Hamas terrorists and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.”

Matt Zweig, the senior policy director for FDD Action, which is supporting the legislation, told JI, “Given the threats arrayed against Israel through the Iran threat networks of Islamic Jihad, Hamas, and associated armed groups, this legislation sends a clear message to the Iranian regime. Its malign conduct will only result in additional measures designed to disrupt, degrade, and ultimately dismantle its network of proxies.”

A version of the bill, the “Hamas International Financing Prevention Act,” that lacks the changes introduced in the Senate bill and is identical to the version that passed the House in the NDAA last year was reintroduced in the House in January by Reps. Brian Mast (R-FL) and Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ). It has since collected six additional Republican co-sponsors and one new Democratic co-sponsor.

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