Produced by the Foundation for Middle East Peace in cooperation with Americans for Peace Now, where the Legislative Round-Up was conceived
- Bills, Resolutions, & Letters - General
- On the Record on H. Res. 246
- On the Record
- Bills, Resolutions, & Letters - General
(BASHING BOYCOTTS & BOYCOTTERS OF ISRAEL/SETTLEMENTS) H. Res. 246: On 7/23, as expected, H. Res. 246, delegitimizing boycotts of Israel/settlements and disparaging anyone who engages in them, was brought to the House floor under suspension of the rules (a method of fast-tracking non-controversial measures that limits floor time and prevents any amendments being offered).
- Floor “debate” on the resolution (here) consisted of a parade of members from both sides of the aisle taking the floor to attest to their support for Israel, their disgust/outrage at boycotters, (for many) their conviction that boycotts of Israel/settlements are not free speech (others reiterated a commitment at the right to boycotts, even as they made clear that THIS particular boycott is so odious it requires public disparagement), and (for most GOP members) their view that this resolution is but a first step, and Congress must now move to pass binding legislation to prevent/punish boycotts of Israel/settlements. See Section 4 for details).
- The only dissenting voices were: McCollum (D-MN), Moore (D-WI), Tlaib (D-MI), Pocan (D-WI).
- In the end, Engel (D-NY) insisted on a recorded roll call vote (as opposed to allowing the resolution to be passed by a voice vote -- a predictable move, given that the (self-evidently) flawed logic behind this shonda of an exercise was that by getting Democrats on the record on BDS, it would neutralize the issue as a weapon for attack against them.
- The final vote was 398-17, with 5 members voting “present”. Voting no were: Blumenauer (D-OR), Carson (D-IN), Dingell (D-MI), García (D-IL), Grijalva (D-AZ), Jayapal (D-WA), Lee (D-CA), Massie (R-KY), McCollum (D-MN), Moore (D-WI), Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Omar (D-MN), Pingree (D-ME), Pocan (D-WI), Rush (D-IL), Tlaib (D-MI), Watson Coleman (D-NJ); voting present were: Amash (I-MI), Bass (D-CA), Davis (D-IL), Huffman (D-CA), Johnson (D-GA); not voting were: Abraham (R-LA), Armstrong (R-ND), Gianforte (R-MT), Gohmert (R-TX), Gonzalez (D-TX) [who in an explanation in the record said he would have voted “yes”], Graves (R-MO), Moulton (D-MA), Richmond (D-LA), Roby (R-AL), Ryan (D-OH), Stewart (R-UT), Wilson (D-FL).
- Rumors suggest that reasons some key progressives voted for the resolution (members who, based on their stated positions, would have been expected to vote otherwise) did so because of a deal cut with House leadership (the quid pro quo reportedly related to efforts to repeal the Yemen War Powers resolution). It will be interesting to see if an enterprising journalist can ferret out the details (or debunk the rumor).
- For a review on why H. Res. 246 is problematic (to say the least) see my previous twitter thread from last week.
(BDS: THE GIFT THAT KEEPS ON GIVING FOR THE GOP) Mast Motion to Recommit on HR 397: On 7/24 -- one day after House Democrats moved H. Res. 246 at least in part based on the flawed logic that doing so would relieve pressure on them from the GOP to move brazenly unconstitutional, binding legislation, Rep. Mast (R-FL) -- offered a motion to recommit on HR 397, the “Rehabilitation for Multiemployer Pensions Act of 2019”. His motion demanded a vote on an amendment that would make it illegal for pension plans receiving loans under HR 397 to “knowingly engage in a commerce-related or investment-related boycott, divestment, or sanctions activity in the course of interstate or international commerce that is intended to undermine the existence of, penalize, inflict economic harm on, or otherwise limit commercial relations with Israel or persons doing business in Israel or Israeli-controlled territories for purposes of coercing political action by, or imposing policy positions on, the Government of Israel.” The motion, which was opposed on the floor by Schneider (D-IL) and Stevens (D-MI) (not in substance but on the grounds that it was a cynical, partisan tactic), was defeated by a vote of 200-232 (with “yes” votes from all GOP members, plus Luria, D-VA, McBath, D-GA, and Van Drew, D-NJ). The bill passed a minute later by a vote of 264-169 (with 168 GOP members voting “no”).
(WISH LIST OF ALL THINGS ISRAEL COULD WANT, PLUS ATCA “FIX”) HR 1837: On 7/23, as expected, HR 1837, the “United States-Israel Cooperation Enhancement and Regional Security Act,” was brought to the House floor under suspension of the rules.
- As noted in last week’s Round-Up (which included a provision-by-provision analysis of the bill), this bill includes hugely consequential provisions, including a provision granting the President broad authority to provide unlimited defense articles and services to Israel with no oversight and subject to no legal limits.
- Following the 7/17 markup - during which there was zero discussion of the substance of HR 1837- on 7/23 the House passed the bill with, again, zero discussion of its substance.
- Rather, floor consideration of the bill ( target="blank"here) consisted of a parade of members grandstanding about their commitment to Israel.
- And in contrast to H. Res. 246, this measure was permitted to pass by a voice vote (no recorded roll call vote).
- All of this is also run-down in a Twitter thread, here.
(SANCTIONING EVERYONE WHO GOES NEAR HAMAS or PIJ) HR 1850: On 7/23, as expected, HR 1850, the “Palestinian International Terrorism Support Prevention Act of 2019,” was brought to the House floor under suspension of the rules, where once again there was zero discussion of the substance of the bill (nobody seems to actually know what it achieves that is new). And in contrast to H. Res. 246, this measure was permitted to pass by a voice vote (no recorded roll call vote).
(WE <HEART> 2SS [JUST DON'T ASK US TO DO ANYTHING CONCRETE TO BACK THAT UP, & DON’T ASK US TO RECOGNIZE OCCUPATION]) H. Res. 326: On 7/17, H. Res. 326 was one of 4 Israel-related measures marked up and passed by the House Foreign Affairs Committee. This week, it was the only one of those measures NOT brought to the floor for a vote under suspension of the rules. Why? Because it appears that even after amending the resolution in committee to further water down what was already an extremely meek statement of support for peace and the two-state solution (by stripping out a historically factual reference in the original text to U.S. efforts to end the “occupation,” softening references to settlements, and added in language bashing the Palestinians) Democratic leadership did not believe it could get the 2/3 majority support that is required to pass measures brought to the floor under suspension of the rules. There is a lesson in this for Democrats, if only they will learn it... Further reading: Politico 7/25, “Dem leaders pull Israel resolution amid internal clash.”
(NOPE, DEMS DIDN’T LEARN ANYTHING FROM H. RES. 326 EXPERIENCE) H. Res. 518: Introduced 7/24 by Lowenthal (D-CA) and Connolly (D-VA), “Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives regarding United States efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through a negotiated two-state solution.” This appears to be an attempt to tweak H. Res. 326 in a manner that might get enough members on board for it to pass. The new formulation takes as its starting point the language of H. Res. 326, as amended in HFAC (to omit mention of “occupation,” to soften references to settlements, and to include language bashes the Palestinians for pursuing statehood outside of negotiations), and then seeks to sweeten the pot by adding support for normalization between Israel and Arabs states as a key goal of U.S. policy, and by softening its exhortative language regarding inclusion of the two-state solution in any US proposal (changing it from a warning of negative consequences if it is not included, to a statement urging that it be included). Will this further watering down be enough to get a sufficient number of members on board to pass it? Maybe (but more likely, not) - but either way, this (further) compromise on what was already a meek resolution in support of longstanding U.S. policy/principles suggests that peace advocates on and off the Hill are resistant to understand that they are being played, with great success, by the other side.
(SUSPEND SOVEREIGN IMMUNITY TO GO AFTER IRAN ASSETS) The”Oorah Act”: Unreported previously (because I failed to notice it) is the fact that S. 1790, the Senate’s FY20 NDAA, includes the Senate’s version of the FY20 Intelligence Authorization Act. This means that when House and Senate conferees meet to iron out differences between their respective versions of these two pieces of must-pass legislation, the Oorah Act will be in the base text in both chambers (making it a near certainty that it will become law, barring an extraordinary intervention of some kind). As a review of what this is about and why it is important:
- The “Oorah Act” legislation started life as freestanding bills in the House and Senate (S. 1529 & HR 2790, covered in the 5/17/19 edition of the Round-Up).
- As reported previously, this rather important piece of legislation was quietly slipped into both the Senate version of the FY20 NDAA (S. 1790 - reported in the 6/28/19 edition of the Round-Up -- which it turns out includes the FY20 Intelligence Authorization Act), and the House version of the FY20 Intelligence Authorization Act (HR 3494 - reported in the 7/19/19 edition of the Round-Up).
- The Oorah Act seeks, in effect, to suspend sovereign immunity and extend U.S. extraterritorial sovereignty in order to seize Iranian assets that are located outside of U.S. jurisdiction, for the purposes of satisfying a U.S. court judgment against Iran on behalf of U.S. Marines killed or injured in the 1983 Marine Barracks bombing in Beirut.
- When discussed at all, the Oorah Act is framed as a non-controversial, mom-and-apple-pie measure designed to obtain justice thus far denied to victims of terror, without any recognition its foreign policy/national security implications.
- In reality, the Oorah Act directly challenges the notion of sovereign immunity, which is the foundation of international relations and the international system. If it becomes law (and the U.S. seeks to implement it), it will put the U.S. at odds with the entire international community and put U.S. citizens/companies at risk of reciprocal acts of seizure by foreign governments and foreign courts.
- It also will be a precedent and template for Congress to legislate similar acts of extraterritorial sovereignty to satisfy U.S. court judgments, with the most obvious targeted being (but in no way limited to) the PA and PLO.
- Not surprisingly, this effort is almost certainly being driven and choreographed by the same politically- /ideologically-motivated lawfare forces behind ATCA (see here and here).
(REMEMBER THE MARINE BARRACKS BOMBING) H. Res. 515: Introduced 7/24 by Pence (R-IN) and 3 bipartisan cosponsors, “Expressing support for the designation of October 23, 2019, as a national day of remembrance of the tragic 1983 terrorist bombing of the United States Marine Corps Barracks in Beirut, Lebanon”. Referred to the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.
(UAE - STOP HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES) H. Res. 524: Introduced 7/25 by Clay (D-MO), “Calling on the United Arab Emirates to immediately end any form of human rights violations against political prisoners and prisoners of free speech, and for other purposes.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
(HUMAN RIGHTS FOR ALL!) H. Res. 527: Introduced 7/25 by Lowenthal (D-CA) and 28 all-Democratic cosponsors, “Recognizing the goal of United States foreign policy should be to promote human rights and equal rights for all.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Lowenthal press release is here; pdf of text is here. NOTE: Given the fact that a generic reitaration of the right to boycott is today being framed as an anti-Israel, antisemitic assault, stay tuned for accusations that this resolution is similarly beyond the pale, based on its dangerous and subversive references to the need for the U.S. to “impose consistent and principled human rights policies,” its expression of concern for people living under “military occupation,” and its repeated invocation of the importance of the U.S. engaging allies and competitors alike.”
(“NO” TO ARMS SALES TO KSA ETC) S. J. Res. 36: “A joint resolution providing for congressional disapproval of the proposed transfer to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the Kingdom of Spain, and the Italian Republic of certain defense articles and services.” Presented to President 7/24; vetoed by the President 7/24.
(“NO” TO ARMS SALES TO UAE ETC) S. J. Res. 37: “A joint resolution providing for congressional disapproval of the proposed export to the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the Republic of France of certain defense articles and services.” Presented to President 7/24; vetoed by the President 7/24.
(“NO” TO ARMS SALES TO KSA ETC) S. J. Res. 38: “A joint resolution providing for congressional disapproval of the proposed export to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland of certain defense articles and services.” Presented to President 7/24; vetoed by the President 7/24.
(CONDEMN RES CALLING FOR FREE SPEECH!) Higgins letter to Pelosi: On 7/23 -- the same day that the House passed a resolution demonizing boycotts targeting Israel/settlements, Rep. Higgins (R-LA) sent a letter to House Speaker Pelosi (D-CA) demanding that she publicly condemn H. Res. 496, a resolution “affirming that all Americans have the right to participate in boycotts in pursuit of civil and human rights at home and abroad, as protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution.” Higgins writes that the measure (which never mentions Israel) is “a thinly veiled attack on the nation of Israel.” He goes on to argue that: “Under our Constitution, everyone is entitled to express their own political beliefs. However, allowing clearly antisemitic legislation to be introduced and promoted without consequence in the U.S. Congress is a disgrace to our nation and one of its closest allies. It is your responsibility as the Speaker of the House and the leader of the Democratic Party to publicly admonish this legislation.” Press release is here.
(CONCERN FOR AFRICAN MIGRANTS IN ISRAEL) CBC letter to Bibi: On 7/22, the Congressional Black Caucus sent a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu expressing its “deep concern over the treatment of people of African descent in Israel, and our desire for information regarding incidents over the past few years, including recent events.” The letter notes that, “This inquiry is consonant with a role that the CBC has played throughout its history, monitoring the situation of those of African origin all over the world, and working to assure that U.S. policy takes those concerns into account.” The letter lays out four specific questions for which it is seeking answers from Netanyahu. Press release is here.
(Brazil and Paraguay Should Declare Iran-Backed Hezbollah A Terrorist Group) Cruz et al letter to Pompeo: On 7/19, Senators Cruz (R-TX), Blackburn (R-TB), and Cramer (R-ND) sent a letter to SecState Pompeo asking him to urge his Brazilian and Paraguayan counterparts to designate Hezbollah a terrorist organization. Press release is here.
On the Record on H. Res. 246
Statements around H. Res. 246 on the Democratic side fell into 3 categories: members engaging in shameless grandstanding about their commitment to Israel and their disgust at boycotts; members doing that same grandstanding while offering at least lip service to a commitment to free speech; and a few members explaining in very carefully crafted language why they opposed the resolution. Examples:
- Speaking in support of H. Res. 246 on the House floor before the vote: Engel (D-NY), Nadler (D-NY), Smith (R-NJ), Schneider (D-IL), Murphy (D-FL), Deutch (D-FL), Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Suozzi (D-NY), Gottheimer (D-NJ).
- Others making/issues statements in support: Frankel (D-FL), DeFazio (D-OR), Deutch (D-FL), Hartzler (R-MI), Costa (D-CA), the “Problem Solvers Caucus” (bipartisan), the “Blue Dog Coalition”, Radewagen (D-AS), Lewis (D-GA), Pressley (D-MA - in a twitter thread seeking to explain how she was not violating her own beliefs with this vote, re-tweeted by Khanna, D-CA).
- Making/Issues statements opposing H. Res. 246: McCollum (D-MN), Moore (D-WI), Tlaib (D-MI), Pocan (D-WI)
On the GOP side, most statements of “support” took a very specific line: explicitly or implicitly attacking Democrats for not acting sooner against BDS, and pushing Democrats to move beyond a non-binding resolution to pass legislation with teeth (i.e., legislation that is brazenly unconstitutional). Examples:
- On the House floor during consideration of H. Res. 246: Zeldin (R-NY), Scalise (R-LA), and McCaul (R-TX).
- Statements in press releases, statements for the record, tweets): LaMalfa (R-CA), Walorski (R-IN); Curtis (R-UT); Hudson (R-NC); Kustoff (R-TN); Brady (R-TX); Marshall (R-KS); McHenry (R-NC); Biggs (R-AZ), Hill (R-AR - who suggested that the House was acting on the wrong anti-BDS measure, suggesting that House leaders were avoiding consequential legislation, “in favor of a toothless resolution is because the majority party in this House is hopelessly divided on what should be a commonsense issue. Imagine House Democrats hopelessly divided about anti-Semitism--sad.”
- Also in the Senate, see: Hyde-Smith (R-MS)
- Also, Rubio (R-FL) on 7/23, released a statement entitled: “Speaker Pelosi Allowing Radical, Anti-Semitic Minority to Dictate House Floor Agenda,” and arguing that ““For months, Speaker Pelosi has refused to bring my bipartisan bill to combat the BDS movement’s discriminatory conduct and strengthen America’s security in the Middle East to the House floor...Out of fear of retaliation from the far left wing of her conference, it’s clear that Speaker Pelosi has allowed the radical, anti-Semitic minority in the Democratic Party to dictate the House floor agenda.”
- And McConnell (R-KY) on 7/24 on the Senate floor delivered a gloating speech bashing Democrats for not passing H. Res. 246 unanimously (“It is regrettable that some of the Democrats who claim to represent the future of their party lobbied against the measure that should be completely without controversy”), and for not passing binding legislation (“this symbolic BDS resolution is held up as a major victory, while Senate-passed legislation that would actually take action--actually do something against BDS--doesn't even get a vote. They will not even give it a vote over there in the House.”)
The irony, of course, is that the main reasons for Democrats to move H. Res. 246 appears to have been the belief that it would be an antidote to GOP attacks on them over BDS, and more specifically, would relieve pressure on them from the GOP to advance unconstitutional BDS legislation. Who could possibly have imagined, let alone predicted, that it would do exactly the opposite? (Who indeed).
Text of Statements Opposing H. Res. 246
Below the full text of statements issued by 4 members explaining their opposition to H. Res. 246 (included here because their words/views have been at best ignored, at worst maliciously mischaracterized).
McCollum (D-MN): “Mr. Speaker, peaceful dissent and the protesting of injustice are the right of all Americans guaranteed by the Constitution. It is called freedom of speech. H. Res. 246 renounces the peaceful promotion of human rights, self-determination, and justice on behalf of Palestinian people living under Israeli military occupation. At the same time, this resolution completely ignores the Netanyahu government's brutality, dehumanization, and subjugation of Palestinian people at the root of this peaceful movement.
“The State of Israel is a sovereign nation, an ally of the United States, and a military power that occupies Palestinian lands for the benefit of Jewish settlers. H. Res. 246 originally claimed that the use of voluntary boycotts, divestment, and sanctions ``undermines the possibility of a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.'' I am pleased that this language has been removed.
“I am also very pleased that resolving clause 3 was added to affirm the Constitutional right of U.S. citizens to free speech, including ‘the right to protest or criticize the policies of the United States or a foreign government.’
“Israel cannot be delegitimized by any outside movement, it is a nation-state that is self-governed and makes its own laws, its own policies. Sadly, and I say sadly because I want peace and security for the Israeli people, it is the actions of the Netanyahu government that delegitimizes Israel's standing in the world community.
“Today's Washington Post ran a headline: ‘Israeli demolition of Palestinian homes provokes outcry.' Is this the action of a nation seeking peaceful negotiations? Is the annexation of Palestinian lands or the military detention and torture of Palestinian children an effort
to seek a negotiated peace agreement?
“Under Prime Minister Netanyahu, Israel is engaged in a systemic, violent, and repressive strategy to annex Palestinian lands and permanently displace the Palestinian population, not seek a negotiated peace or a two-state solution. Shamefully, the President of the United States and the U.S. ambassador to Israel are enabling this effort in a reversal of decades of bipartisan U.S. foreign policy.
“Actions by Congress, like passing H. Res. 246, which ignore reality and effectively supports military occupation, violations of international humanitarian law, and the subjugation of the Palestinian population, does not strengthen Israel, but it does damage the standing of the U.S. House in the eyes of the world.
“It is time for Congress to exercise real American leadership that is based on our values and the belief that Israel deserves peace and security, and at the same time the Palestinian people deserve justice, equality, and an end to Israeli repression and occupation. H. Res. 246 offers nothing but the perpetuation of the status quo, repression, and conflict.”
Moore (D-WI): “the right to participate in boycotts, whether we agree with them or not, is protected by our constitution, including political expression aimed at Israeli policy. Americans have long used such tactics to influence and pressure our government and other governments. The only difference here is we appear to be striving to carve out and treat differently, even silence, those who disagree with the policies undertaken by our ally Israel.
“How can you support the right under the Constitution to political speech including boycotts and then bring this resolution to the floor?
“Let me be clear, I oppose anyone (Palestinian, Israeli, American, etc..) who are taking actions inimical to peace. And after nearly three decades, it is fair to say all sides, including the U.S., have done so in some shape or form.
“Any effort that has at its heart delegitimizing the State of Israel is doomed to fail. And the BDS movement, just like unilateral actions undertaken by either side, is not going to bring two states living in peace side by side. It was born out of frustration, that we all share, with a moribund peace process that harms both Israelis and Palestinians.
“At this time when Congress can be doing so much more to help advance the peace process or even to just revive it, why is the only action we are taking is to bring to the floor a nonbinding resolution that doesn't address where most of the blame for the failures lay: the continuing intransigence and refusal by Israeli and Palestinian political leaders to make the tough decisions and compromises that need to be made for peace.
“That refusal continues to feed the status quo. But rather than call out those responsible, including several actions taken by this Administration, for setting back the cause of peace, we have decided that this moment is ripe solely to attack the First Amendment rights of Americans?
“Again, rather than pressing the parties to make the tough decision and concessions that will be necessary for peace, Congress has decided that the top focus at the moment is the voluntary decisions by some Americans to exercise political expression? The First Amendment does not threaten Israel's right to exist. Nor does any American exercising that right.
“I agree with the editorial by the New York Times which warned that attempting to ‘silence one side of the debate’ is not ‘in the interests of Israel, the United States, or their shared democratic values.'
“Rather than attacking the First Amendment right of Americans to criticize the policies of our own government or our allies, how about pushing our own administration to actually say the words ‘two-state solution' which it refuses to do or to actually act as if its interested in pursuing that longstanding goal that this Congress and past administrations has reaffirmed is the best option for peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.
“I am concerned that resolutions such as this one serves no real purpose, certainly not to those of us interested in working as honest brokers to bring this decades long history of simmering tensions, outright war, and hostility to an end, permanently.
“I fear that this resolution is just another in a long line of nonbinding resolutions considered by this House that fails to actually advance peace between the two sides, ignores the various and complex factors that have made the prospects for peace in this conflict the worse in a generation including actions by this administration that have been roundly rejected by many.
“Again, in looking at this resolution, I understand that it is easier to blame a host of outside actors, including those who we disagree with, for the current damaging status quo. The reality however remains that it is the consistent and repeated failure of political leaders in Ramallah, Jerusalem, and at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to make the tough decisions and concessions that peace requires and which has left us in this damaging status quo.
“The folly of the current situation was encapsulated by the Trump administration's recent Bahrain conference which neither the Palestinians or Israelis attended.
“Finally, I am concerned that this resolution is a slippery slope to actually taking up binding legislation affecting cherished First Amendment rights such as the bill that passed the Senate earlier this year which was derided in media reports as a ‘political stunt.' Israeli's and Palestinians alike have had enough of political stunts.
“Opportunities for progress and for peace are growing fewer and farther apart as the damaging status quo and divides only harden, waiting for the next explosion of violence. And are we surprised that without prospects for peace, extremists seem to be gaining ground?
“I would be far more constructive if this Congress would focus on finding viable solutions to the Israel-Palestinian conflict rather that promoting legislation that raises free speech concerns. For example, H.Res. 326 which was marked up in committee at the same time as this resolution but is curiously absent from this week's calendar.
“I firmly believe it is our responsibility as a Congress to keep working towards peace despite pessimism and pessimists.
“Clearly right now, what the Middle East needs is more solutions, not more meaningless resolutions. I said this a few years ago and I will repeat it again now: both peoples would gladly trade empty resolutions from the U.S. Congress for real progress on the ground and a sincere path forward.”
Tlaib (D-MI): “I stand before you as the granddaughter of a Palestinian grandmother, my sity, who yearns to experience equality, human dignity, and freedom. I stand before you, the daughter of Palestinian immigrants, parents who experienced being stripped of their human rights, the right to freedom of travel and equal treatment. So I can't stand by and watch this attack on our freedom of speech and the right to boycott the racist policies of the Government and the State of Israel.
“I love our country's freedom of speech, Madam Speaker. Dissent is how we nurture democracy and grow to be better, more humane, and just. This is why I oppose H. Res. 246.
“All Americans have a constitutional right, guaranteed by the First Amendment, to freedom of speech, to petition their government, and to participate in boycotts.
“Speech in pursuit of civil and human rights at home and abroad is protected by our First Amendment. That is one reason why our First Amendment is so powerful. With a few exceptions, the government is simply not allowed to discriminate against speech based on its viewpoint or its speaker.
“The right to boycott is deeply rooted in the fabric of our country. What was the Boston Tea Party but a boycott? Where would we be now without the boycott led by civil rights activists in the 1950s and 1960s, like the Montgomery bus boycott and United Farm Workers grape boycott.
“Some of this country's most important advances in racial equality and equity and workers' rights have been achieved through collective action protected by our Constitution.
“Americans of conscience have a long and proud history of participating in boycotts specifically to advocate for human rights abroad. Americans boycotted Nazi Germany in response to dehumanization, imprisonment, and genocide of Jewish people. In the 1980s, many of us in this very body boycotted South African goods in the fight against apartheid.
“Our right to free speech is being threatened with this resolution. It sets a dangerous precedent because it attempts to delegitimize certain people's political speech and to send a message that our government can and will take action against speech it doesn't like.
“Madam Speaker, the Supreme Court has, time and time again, recognized that expressive conduct is protected by the Constitution, from burning a flag to baking a cake. Efforts to restrict and target that protected speech run the risk of eroding the civil rights that form the foundation of our democracy.
“All Americans have the right to participate in boycotts, and I oppose all legislative efforts that target speech.
“Madam Speaker, I urge Congress, State governments, and civil rights leaders from all communities to preserve our Constitution, preserve our Bill of Rights, and preserve the First Amendment's guarantee of freedom of speech by opposing H. Res. 246 and antiboycott efforts wherever they arise.
Pocan (D-WI): “today we will be taking up a resolution to denounce the BDS movement, the boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel. This region is not unfamiliar to me, as I have been there twice, in both Israel and Palestine.
“I do not support the BDS movement. When I was last in Palestine, I asked multiple people with whom I met if they supported the movement, and the response was that they did not, as they were afraid of the economic effect on Palestine, where many are already struggling.
“However, I also do not support the resolution today, as it goes too far, in my opinion, in telling people what they can or should think or say about the situation in Israel. Israel the country and the Israeli people are good friends of the United States. They are a strong democracy and a close ally of our country. I have supported the Iron Dome as a way to deescalate the tensions that occur when a rocket is sent into Israel from inside Gaza, for example. It is better to take out that missile before there is any damage or death rather than returning a volley of rockets back in response, injuring or killing people of both countries.
“But I also think it is okay to be critical of the Netanyahu administration, or government, and their policies. Look, if a dear friend does something that jeopardizes themselves or their family's lives or livelihoods, I have a moral obligation to say something because I respect my friend. It should be no different with our response to Israel. People have a right to be concerned about a number of actions by the Israeli Government.
“We have a right to question how continuing to create illegal settlements into the West Bank will make it harder to broker a two-state solution, the best path forward toward peace in the region, given the additional difficulty of the land swaps. We have a right to question why it is okay to take Palestinian children, or any child, into a military court for detention by Israel. We have a right to ask if sectioning off 2 million people in Gaza, with over a million people needing food assistance and 95 percent not having access to clean water, will ever lead to peace, or why not allowing Members of Congress to go into Gaza from Israel is smart. What don't they want us to see by not allowing us in?
“We have a right to ask how demolishing Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem or the West Bank or crops in Gaza serves to further peace in the region. We have a right to ask why it makes sense to have a major highway with a giant wall in the middle of it with one side for Palestinians and the other for Israelis, as it looks like something we have judged poorly previously in history. We have a right to ask if a bullet directed at a child is an equivalent response to a thrown rock.
“I am not saying that Hamas, the organization that has been recognized by the United States as a terrorist organization, is innocent or pure--anything but. But, obviously, not all Palestinians are Hamas by any stretch of the imagination.
“If we really want peace in the region, where we will never have to send young men
and women from our country to risk their lives, then we need a government in Israel that respects human rights more
and works more aggressively towards peace.
“I was told a resolution advocating for a two-state solution would be up today as well, a resolution I support; but apparently it is not, and that is a mistake. Instead, only this resolution opposing BDS is up. And while I do not support BDS, I cannot support this resolution as worded. My hope is that we will have real peace in the region someday, that we will have a two-state solution where both Israelis and Palestinians will live in peace, both internally and with each other. But this resolution won't do that. Madam Speaker, I just wish real efforts toward peace were what we were debating today.”
- Hearings & Markups
7/25: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a business meeting to deal with (among other things) two bills related to Saudi Arabia: S. 398, the Saudi Arabia Accountability and Yemen Act of 2019; and S. 2066, the Saudi Arabia Diplomatic Review Act of 2019. Both measures were reported out favorably, without any amendments. Menendez press release 2/25: Menendez Statement on Committee Passage of Bipartisan Saudi Arabia Accountability and Yemen Act (no webcast).
7/24: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing entitled, “Reviewing Authorities for the Use of Military Force.” Witnesses were: David Hale, Under Secretary for Political Affairs, Bureau of Political Affairs (statement); and Marik String, Acting Legal Advisor, Office of the Legal Advisor (statement). Risch (R-ID) opening statement is here; Menendez (D-NJ) opening statement is here. Murphy (D-CT) press release: Murphy Questions Trump Administration Officials On The President’s Legal Authority To Go To War With Iran Without Congressional Approval. Video of the hearing is here.
7/24: The House Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing entitled, “The FY20 Budget: State Department Counterterrorism and Countering Violent Extremism Bureau.” The sole witness was Amb. Nathan Sales, Coordinator for Counterterrorism for the Department of State’s Bureau of Counterterrorism and Countering Violent Extremism (statement - lots on Iran, Hizballah, etc). Video is here.
- On the Record
Pelosi (D-CA) 7/24: Pelosi Statement on President Trump’s Veto of Bicameral, Bipartisan Bill Blocking Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE
Cruz (R-TX) 7/24: Sen. Cruz Calls for Trump Administration to Revoke Civil-Nuclear Waivers Built Into Catastrophic Obama Iran Nuclear Deal
Murphy (D-CT) and (Durbin (D-IL) 7/24: Readout Of Meeting With New Saudi Ambassador To The U.S
Payne (D-NJ) 7/24: The Plight Of Ethiopian Israelis In Israel
Marshall (X-KS) 7/24: Bring Iran to the Table (“Mr. Speaker, we don't want war in Iran. We don't want war in the Middle East. We don't want war anywhere.”)
Gosar (R-AZ) 7/23: Rudy Giuliani Comments Regarding The Iranian Regime Of Terror
Gottheimer (D-NJ) 7/23: Gottheimer, U.S. Special Envoy Elan Carr, Community Leaders Stand up to Anti-Semitism
Waltz (R-FL) 7/23: Iran Continuing to Escalate Tensions to Divert Attention from Crashing Economy
House Minority Staff, Committee on Oversight and Reform 7/22: Report: Addressing the Allegations of Impropriety in the Proposed Transfer of Nuclear Energy Technology to Saudi Arabia
Rubio (R-FL) 7/19: Rubio Welcomes U.S. Sanctions Targeting a Senior Hizballah Operative Plotting Terrorist Attacks in the Western Hemisphere