Senate Advances Bill that Penalizes Companies that Boycott Israel

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Both Democrat and Republican Senators advanced a pro-Israel bill authorizing US military defense and loan guarantees to Israel. It also gives state and local governments the ability to penalize companies that boycott Israel in protest against Israel’s occupation of the West Bank. Companies that oppose Israeli occupation of Palestine will go out of business when they lose government contracts. Both parties in 26 states have passed laws against companies participating in economic boycotts against Israel.

The American Civil Liberties Union has challenged four state laws, winning two judgments in Arizona and Kansas so far with federal courts saying the laws run afoul of the First Amendment by trampling on Americans’ expressive conduct. There’s no Supreme Court precedent squarely on the subject.

After weeks of a shutdown-inspired filibuster, some Senate Democrats relented Monday and joined Republicans to advance a bill to give state and local governments a green light to penalize companies that boycott Israel.

The Senate voted 74-19 to head off an initial blockade and clear the path for the bill to reach the chamber floor later this week. The vote also signals that barring a major dust-up, the legislation likely has enough support to pass.

Democrats had been filibustering for weeks, with some objecting to the bill on policy grounds and others arguing they didn’t want to deal with any other issues as long as government was partially closed.

Now that the shutdown is over, those latter objections disappeared.

Republicans called the bill a major piece of “pro-Israel” legislation.

“At its core, the linchpin of it is helping Israel defend itself,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican, who sponsored the legislation.

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