Democrat Senators Working to Slip Israel Anti-Boycott Law Through in Lame Duck Spending Bill

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) are reportedly leaning toward slipping text into the spending bill that would criminalize boycotts of Israel. (ACLU) PHOTO: Getty

By Ryan Grim and Alex Emmons | 4 December 2018

THE INTERCEPT — Democrat Sen. Ben Cardin is making a behind-the-scenes push to slip an anti-boycott law into a last-minute spending bill being finalized during the lame-duck session, according to four sources familiar with the negotiations.

The measure, known as the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, was shelved earlier amid concerns about the infringement of free speech, after civil liberties groups argued that the original version would have allowed criminal penalties for Americans who participate in a political boycott of Israel. Some of the more aggressive elements of the provision have been removed under pressure, but the American Civil Liberties Union, which spearheaded the initial opposition to the bill, is still strongly opposed.

In a letter to Congress, the ACLU warned that the amended version still creates unconstitutional restrictions on free speech. “We understand the Senate is considering attaching a revised version of S. 720 to the end-of-the-year omnibus spending bill, and we urge you to oppose its inclusion,” reads a letter dated December 3.

On Monday, incoming Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., became the second member of Congress to publicly endorse the Boycott, Sanctions, and Divestment movement, or BDS, which Cardin’s measure is meant to combat. She joined incoming Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., who had become the first to publicly endorse it. Neither would be able to vote on the measure, as they won’t be sworn in until January. […]

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