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House to consider anti-BDS, Iran deal amendments to defense policy bill

Amendments would seek to implement anti-BDS measures for defense contractors and block an Iran deal that is not explicitly approved by Congress

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House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) answers questions during a press conference at the U.S. Capitol on January 09, 2020 in Washington, D.C.

The House is set to consider a series of amendments opposing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement and placing restrictions on a potential nuclear agreement with Iran as it concludes proceedings on the 2024 National Defense Authorization Act.

In the early hours of Thursday morning, the House Rules Committee cleared for consideration an additional set of amendments to the 2024 NDAA, the annual defense policy bill, moving the House toward final passage of the package.

The newly cleared amendments include a bipartisan measure requiring a report to Congress on whether any products sold in military commissaries and exchange stores are manufactured by companies engaged in boycotts of Israel. The amendment also declares that “Congress is concerned about the antisemitic efforts of the Boycott, Divestment,  and Sanctions (BDS) movement against the State of  Israel, including its efforts to delegitimize, isolate, and ultimately destroy the Jewish state.”

A second Republican amendment would ban the Defense Department from contracting with any entity that boycotts Israel.

Another amendment seeks to block the administration from entering a nuclear agreement with Iran without “explicit Congressional approval.”

The committee also cleared for consideration a series of amendments aimed at dismantling diversity, equity and inclusion efforts within the Defense Department, as well as setting the stage for a potential investigation of the Pentagon’s counter extremism efforts.

Another amendment, cleared by the committee earlier this week, requesting a report on the capabilities and needs of Central Command, will be voted on as part of another en bloc package.

On Wednesday, the House approved, by voice votes, 18 other amendments on Israel and Iran policy as part of larger en bloc amendment packages. It’s unclear whether some or all of the newly cleared amendments will be considered as stand-alone measures or en bloc.

The Rules Committee voted along party lines to reject House consideration of an amendment calling for an annual report to Congress on Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank. A similar provision is set for consideration in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday.

The Committee also left more than 100 proposed amendments relevant to Middle East policy and antisemitism on the cutting floor, including bipartisan measures promoting Middle East maritime cooperation, creating a special envoy for the Abraham Accords, taking aim at Iranian oil smuggling and pushing for U.S.-Israel artificial intelligence cooperation. In total, less than a quarter of all proposed amendments to the 2024 NDAA will receive floor consideration, a significantly smaller percentage than in recent years.

The amendments approved by the Rules Committee Thursday morning include various proposals pushed by House conservatives, including amendments cutting off funding to Ukraine, restricting funding to NATO and measures relating to abortion, race, the LGBTQ community and vaccination. The moves represent a victory for the House conservatives and the Freedom Caucus, who had been in negotiations with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy over including the hot-button measures in the defense bill.

Rules Committee Democrats warned that the amendments, if approved, could be a death knell for bipartisan support for the bill, which passed nearly unanimously through the Armed Services Committee, and potentially imperil its passage in the House, accusing Republican leadership of kowtowing to the fringe right.

“Some of this garbage that my friends have put forth… is offensive, will turn this into a purely partisan bill. I’m not even sure whether all Republicans will vote for some of it, because it is so awful,” Rules Committee Ranking Member James McGovern said.

McCarthy also reportedly agreed to take up repeal and potential replacement of existing Authorizations for Use of Military Force in September, according to Punchbowl News; the 2001 AUMF undergirding the War on Terror is expected to be replaced while others will be repealed alone. As part of previous AUMF reform efforts, some lawmakers have sought to clarify or expand authorities to strike Iran.

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