Senate Dems Stall Bill On Israel Boycott Movement Over Government Shutdown

(Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Kerry Picket Political Reporter
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WASHINGTON, D.C. — Senate Democrats stalled Republicans’ Middle East policy package Tuesday night over the inclusion of Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio’s “Combatting BDS Act,” which opposes the international Boycott, Divest and Sanctions movement against Israel.

Rashida Tlaib on Democracy Now! (Youtube Video Screenshot)

The bill, after a 56 to 44 cloture vote, failed to receive the required 60 votes in order to move on to the final vote that only requires a simple majority. Democrats said they would continue to block the bill until the government was funded and re-opened.

Vermont Democratic Sen. Bernie Sanders attacked Rubio’s bill tweeting: “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. Democrats must block consideration of any bills that don’t reopen the government. Let’s get our priorities right.”

Rubio responded, “My bill doesn’t punish any political activity. It protects the right of local [and] state govts [sic] that decide to no longer do business with those who boycott #Israel. So boycotting #Israel is a constitutional right, but boycotting those participating in #BDS isn’t?

Maryland Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin tweeted the Senate “should not take up any bills unrelated to reopening the government” until the partial shutdown was over.

Cardin, a fierce supporter of anti-BDS legislation, previously tried to slip anti-BDS language into the spending bill during the lame-duck session before the partial government shutdown back in December, Salon reported.

The bill, which normally would receive bipartisan support in the past has a new twist this year, which places many Democrats in the caucus in an uncomfortable position.

Freshman Michigan Democratic Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib and Minnesota Democrat Ilhan Omar are two Democrats to have publicly supported the BDS movement. (RELATED: Tlaib Denies Reports That She Was Sworn In On Thomas Jefferson’s Quran)

Omar, however, has clarified her position on BDS, saying that while she supports a two-state solution, she believes that BDS is “not helpful in getting that two-state solution,” muslimgirl.com noted.

“I think that the particular purpose for [BDS] is to put pressure, and I think that that pressure is really counteractive. Because in order for us to have a process to getting to a two-state solution, people need to be willing to come to the table … I think [BDS] stops the dialogue,” Omar said.

Tlaib criticized Rubio’s bill, saying in a tweet:“They forgot what country they represent. This is the [United States], where boycotting is a right [and] part of our historical fight for freedom [and] equality. Maybe a refresher on our U.S. Constitution is in order, then get back to opening up our government instead of taking our rights away.”

US Republican Senator Marco Rubio speaks with Israeli President before a meeting on February 20, 2013 at the presidential compound in Jerusalem. AFP PHOTO/MARCO LONGARI (Photo credit should read MARCO LONGARI/AFP/Getty Images)

Sen. Rubio accused Tlaib’s criticism of his bill as “anti-Semitic”: “This ‘dual loyalty’ canard is a typical anti-Semitic line #BDS isn’t about freedom & equality, it’s about destroying #Israel And if boycotting #Israel is constitutionally protected, then boycotting companies that boycott #Israel is also constitutionally protected.”

Tlaib defended her tweet saying to Amy Goodman on “Democracy Now!” saying, “Everyone knows what my intent was. I said, ‘Read the United States Constitution.’ That’s exactly what I want them to do because that is the law of the land. So, for me, that is why they have forgotten what country that we are, you know, representing.”

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel told The Daily Caller he finds the BDS movement “abhorrent.”

“I can’t control what people say but, obviously, boycotting and divesting from Israel is certainly not the right thing to do now,” he said.

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Kerry Picket is a host on SiriusXM Patriot 125