by Whitney Webb, MintPress News
In an evening vote that garnered essentially no national media coverage, the U.S. Senate voted last night to advance the “Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act of 2019” – sometimes called the “anti-BDS bill”
for its component that would allow state and local governments to
punish companies or individuals who support the non-violent Boycott,
Divest, Sanctions movement aimed at promoting Palestinian rights and
ending Israeli apartheid and military occupation of the West Bank. The
bill was, notably, numbered S.1 — the Senate’s first legislative act of
its 2019-20 session.
Numerous rights groups, politicians
and civil rights advocates have accused this measure of violating
freedom of speech and setting a dangerous precedent for the private
political activism of American citizens, all on behalf of a foreign
The bill was adopted by the Senate in a vote of 74 in favor to 19 against, with seven abstentions. The bill had previously been blocked
by Senate Democrats by a 56-44 vote as part of their objection to
acting on legislation during the government shutdown. However, many of
those Democratic senators who had previously blocked the bill ultimately
voted in support of the measure. In order to become law, the measure
would still need to pass the Democrat-run House of Representatives.
However, given the amount of support for the measure among Democrats and
the power of the Israel lobby, the bill stands a considerable chance of
passing the House.
Some commentators have paid
particular attention to how Democratic senators considered to be 2020
hopefuls voted on the bill. Several confirmed and likely contenders for
the upcoming Democratic nomination voted “No”
– including Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)
and Bernie Sanders (I-VT). However, Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Kamala
Harris (D-CA), whose private courting of the Israel lobby was the
subject of a recent MintPress News report, abstained from voting. Another notable abstention was Republican Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), who had previously threatened to filibuster a key component of the bill last year, preventing its passage during the previous Congress...
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