House Republicans are making a move to force Democrats into a potentially party-splitting pro-Israel vote on the House floor.
Wednesday morning, standing alongside a sign that said “We stand with Israel,” members of the House Republican conference discussed their latest procedural move to force a vote on a bill combatting the anti-Semitic Boycott, Divestiture, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, the world’s only Jewish state: A discharge petition.
“As elected leaders we have a duty to address the rising trend of anti-Semitism we are seeing across the nation and around the world,” reads a statement from Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. “The BDS movement is a vile manifestation of anti-Semitism that seeks to isolate and shame an American ally; its fundamental motives run counter to our core American principles and ideals.”
H.R. 336, or the Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act of 2019, is currently before the House Foreign Affairs Committee and contains provisions designed to protect the world’s only Jewish state from efforts to stymie and cripple it economically.
“The reason that BDS is such a concern,” explained House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., at Wednesday’s press conference, “is that it’s an attempt to delegitimize Israel as a Jewish state.”
Between a growing wave of anti-Israel sentiment on the political Left, media attention from multiple high-profile anti-Semitic statements from far-left Democratic freshmen Reps. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., and Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., and the watered-down resolution responding to some of those comments, the Democratic Party’s stance on Israel has come into serious question over the past few months.
The House is a majoritarian body by design, leaving very few options for the minority party to control the legislative schedule. A discharge petition, as Republicans are gathering signatures for here, allows for an end run around the majority party’s power, so long as the bill being discharged from committee can get signatures from a House majority.
“We have witnessed the rise of anti-Semitism and anti-Israel hate throughout the world, in our nation, on college campuses and within the halls of Congress, and whether this bigotry is brazen or it’s blatant anti-Semitism deceptively called ‘legitimate’ we must crush it wherever it exists,” said Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., said in a statement about the discharge petition.
“Members of Congress can no longer hide behind procedural roadblocks. The American people deserve to know where each and every one of us stand and what we are willing to do about it,” Zeldin’s statement continues, “which is why we’re doing what House Democratic leadership won’t; unapologetically bringing legislation to the floor that not only condemns the BDS movement but helps stop it.”
This is not the first time this session that Republican leaders have attempted to force their Democratic colleagues to vote on a potentially divisive issue in the House chamber. Earlier this year, GOP members launched a discharge petition campaign to bring up a high-profile anti-infanticide measure after national attention to the issue led to a widely covered vote on the Senate version.
The anti-BDS petition was filed back in April but “ripened” for signatures this week. It will need 218 signatures to bring it out of committee and force a floor vote, which means that all 197 House Republicans would need 21 House Democrats to join them.
According to an emailed statement from the office of House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, no fewer than 27 current House Democrats cosponsored similar legislation in the last Congress.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., however, told reporters Wednesday that he intends to move quickly on the pro-Israel measure.
“The committee is considering this, and I expect to be moving something out of the committee in the relatively near future,” Hoyer said during a press briefing elsewhere in the Capitol complex. “My inclination is to put it on the floor, yes, but I want to see what the committee does first before I make that decision.”
Full video of Wednesday’s Republican press conference can be found here.