WASHINGTON – The Senate futher advanced a package of bills related to the Middle East on Tuesday, including one that encourages state governments to demand that contractors declare they don’t support boycotts of Israel or its settlements in the West Bank.
Seventy-six senators voted in favor of the bill, including a majority of Senate Democrats; 22 senators voted against it, including a number of prominent Democrats who could seek the party’s presidential nomination in the 2020 election.
Democrats who voted against the bill included senators Kamala Harris, Corey Booker, Sherrod Brown, Kirsten Gillibrand, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders (an independent who caucuses with the Democrats) – all potential candidates for 2020. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who is also mentioned as a potential 2020 candidate, was among the 24 Democrats who backed the bill. So too did Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and newly elected senators Kyrsten Sinema and Jacky Rosen.
The Senate bill, known as S.1 – Strengthening America's Security in the Middle East Act of 2019, is a package of bills, including the controversial anti-boycott law. The bill essentially encourages support for local legislation passed by U.S. states against the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.
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More than 25 states have passed such legislation in recent years. In many cases, the local legislation makes it illegal for the state government to sign contracts with service providers who refuse to sign a declaration saying they don’t participate in boycotts of Israel or its settlements in the West Bank.
Over the past year, a number of contractors filed lawsuits against such laws, claiming to have lost jobs because of them. In two cases, federal courts in Kansas and Arizona suspended the implementation of such laws as a result of lawsuits alleging a violation of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The American Civil Liberties Union has denounced such legislation and is involved in many of the lawsuits against it.