Democrats continue to clash with Republicans over Israel policy, the government shutdown, and U.S. border security.
For the second time this week, Senate Democrats failed to reach the necessary 60 votes on Thursday afternoon to end debate on Republican-introduced legislation that, if enacted, would impose fresh sanctions on Syria, as well as boost security cooperation with Israel and Jordan amid the announced gradual withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria.
It is also aimed at tackling the anti-Israel BDS movement. The final tally was 53-43.
At least four Democrats voted for cloture, the procedure that ends debate and initiates a vote: Arizona’s Krysten Sinema, Alabama’s Doug Jones, West Virginia’s Joe Manchin and New Jersey’s Robert Menendez.
On Tuesday, the Senate failed to proceed to start the clock, which is no more than an additional 30 hours of debate, to then proceed to vote on the bill that would also reauthorize the United States-Jordan Defense Cooperation Act of 2015 to help the Hashemite Kingdom respond to the Syrian refugee crisis, fight the Islamic State and other terrorist groups, and protect its borders with Iraq and Syria.
Democrats have objected to moving the bill forward due to the partial government shutdown that has lasted 19 days due to an impasse between U.S. President Donald Trump and Democrats over $5.6 billion in funding for a border wall with Mexico.
“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,” tweeted Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont who caucuses with the Democrats.
“Democrats must block consideration of any bills that don’t reopen the government,” he continued. “Let’s get our priorities right.”
“Senate Democrats should block consideration of any bills unrelated to opening the government until Sen. Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans allow a vote on the bipartisan bills the House passed to open the government,” tweeted Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.). “Mitch, don’t delay. Let’s vote!”
Politicizing Support for Israel?
In response to the criticism to not vote on the bill until the rest of the government is funded, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a sponsor of the measure, said before Thursday’s vote, “I don’t understand the logic of it,” and said that it will cause people to question those who say they are outraged by the situation in Syria and support Israel.
He compared the excuse to not invoke cloture on the bill to those who don’t go to work the day after their favorite sports team loses. “I don’t know how to explain that,” he said.
Finally, the bill would enable state and local governments in the United States to fight the anti-Israel BDS movement.
B’nai B’rith International CEO Daniel Mariaschin and the Endowment for Middle East Truth commented to JNS, “This bill speaks to two crucial Jewish community priorities: fighting BDS and supporting the U.S.-Israel relationship.”
He added, “Those concerns have been, are now and will continue to be at the forefront of the Jewish policy agenda, regardless of the unrelated impasse that has led to the current government shutdown.”
“We are profoundly disappointed that this critically important package of legislative initiatives is being held hostage by the U.S. Senate,” said EMET founder and president Sarah Stern to JNS.
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee struck a hopeful tone: “We strongly support this legislation, which contains pro-Israel provisions that have previously gained wide bipartisan support, and we continue to urge the Senate to move as quickly as possible to adopt it,” spokesperson Marshall Wittmann told JNS.