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Senate Democrats block pro-Israel, anti-BDS bill for third time in two weeks

Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell voted against the motion. Immediately after the vote, he filed a motion to reconsider for the fourth time.

The U.S. Capitol building. Credit: Martin Falbisoner via Wikimedia Commons.
The U.S. Capitol building. Credit: Martin Falbisoner via Wikimedia Commons.

For the third time in the past few weeks, Senate Democrats failed to reach the necessary 60 votes on Monday evening to end debate on Republican-introduced legislation that, if enacted, would impose fresh sanctions on Syria, boost security cooperation with Israel and Jordan amid the beginning of the planned gradual withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria. It is also aimed at tackling the anti-Israel BDS movement.

The final tally was 50-43.

Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell voted against the motion. Immediately after the vote, he filed a motion to reconsider for the fourth time. In accordance with Senate procedures, the motion must sit a full day before it is “ripened” and can be voted on. That means the earliest the Senate can vote on the motion again is Wednesday.

On Thursday, the Senate failed to proceed to start the clock, which is no more than an additional 30 hours of debate, to then proceed to vote on the bill that would also reauthorize the U.S.-Jordan Defense Cooperation Act of 2015 to help the Hashemite Kingdom respond to the Syrian refugee crisis, fight the Islamic State and other terrorist groups, and protect its borders with Iraq and Syria.

Additionally, it would enable state and local governments in the United States to fight the anti-Israel BDS movement.

Democrats have objected to move with the bill due to the partial government shutdown that has lasted a record 24 days due to U.S. President Donald Trump refusing to sign funding legislation that includes at least $5.6 billion for a border wall with Mexico.

“It’s absurd that the first bill during the shutdown is legislation which punishes Americans who exercise their constitutional right to engage in political activity,” tweeted Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont who caucuses with the Democrats, last week.

“Democrats must block consideration of any bills that don’t reopen the government,” he continued. “Let’s get our priorities right.”

“Senate Democrats should block consideration of any bills unrelated to opening the government until Sen. Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans allow a vote on the bipartisan bills the House passed to open the government,” tweeted Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.). “Mitch, don’t delay. Let’s vote!”

Yaakov Menken, managing director of the Coalition for Jewish Values, told JNS that “the House of Representatives is considering numerous other matters during the [government] shutdown, so we do not see why the Senate should be deemed incapable of walking and chewing gum at the same time. Legislation to fight anti-Semitism and enhance Middle East security should not be held hostage to a partisan fight, much less mischaracterized as threatening free speech.”

The Jewish Democratic Council of America has supported the move by the left side of the aisle.

“Senate Republicans have abdicated their responsibility to the American people by forcing a second vote on S.1, a bill that has nothing to do with reopening the government,” said JDCA executive director Halie Soifer in a statement. “After consideration of this bill was blocked on Tuesday, Senate Republicans’ decision to hold a second vote on the same bill is a clear effort to defer reopening the government and politicize U.S. support for Israel.”

“Senate Democrats support aid to Israel and unanimously oppose the Boycott, Sanctions, and Divestment (BDS) movement—these two issues are not in question,” she continued. “The government shutdown imposes grave and growing social, economic and security risks on the American people. JDCA stands behind Senate Democrats’ insistence that the Senate prioritize opening the government, and demands that Senate Republicans stop politicizing historically bipartisan support for Israel.”

“I would prefer for this legislation to be introduced at a time acceptable to both parties,” Ben Chouake, national president of NORPAC, told JNS. “All these bills received broad bipartisan support and will likely continue to receive such support. The request of the Democrats to hold off most of the legislative agenda until a budget or Continuing Resolution to fund the government is passed is something that is important to them and best to honor the request.”

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