The House Foreign Affairs Committee is eyeing swift movement on legislation designed to shield Israel from financial boycotts, House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerJoining Pelosi, Hoyer says lawmakers should be free to trade stocks Hoyer calls for 'clear and prudent firearms guidelines' from Capitol Police Board Desperate Dems signal support for cutting Biden bill down in size MORE (D-Md.) said Wednesday.
"The committee is considering this, and I expect to be moving something out of the committee in the relatively near future," Hoyer said during a press briefing in the Capitol.
Hoyer did not put a timeline on the process, nor did he commit to bringing the bill to the floor following committee passage, though he suggested Democrats would do so.
"My inclination is to put it on the floor, yes, but I want to see what the committee does first before I make that decision," he said.
The legislation, which will move through the Foreign Affairs Committee, led by Chairman Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelLawmakers pay tribute to Colin Powell NYC snafu the latest flub from a broken elections agency Cynthia Nixon backs primary challenger to Rep. Carolyn Maloney MORE (D-N.Y.), is designed to bar U.S. companies from endorsing anti-Israel boycotts orchestrated by international governmental organizations (IGOs). Such a ban already exists for boycotts organized by foreign governments, but not those promoted by IGOs, like the United Nations.
The issue has come to light in recent years with the rise of the so-called “boycott, divestment, sanctions” movement (BDS) — an international campaign designed to press Israel on human rights issues surrounding the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Human rights and free speech groups have hammered a Senate version of the legislation, sponsored by Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioI'm furious about Democrats taking the blame — it's time to fight back The Hill's 12:30 Report: Djokovic may not compete in French Open over vaccine requirement Florida looms large in Republican 2024 primary MORE (R-Fla.), which passed the upper chamber earlier this year.
The groups contend the bill tramples on First Amendment rights to free speech — and they've been joined in that argument by a number of liberals on Capitol Hill, including Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Schumer tees up doomed election reform vote Schumer prepares for Senate floor showdown with Manchin, Sinema White House to make 400 million N95 masks available for free MORE (I-Vt.), a leading presidential contender, and a trio of outspoken House freshmen: Reps. Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibHouse Democrats inquire about possible census undercount in Detroit, other communities Michigan redistricting spat exposes competing interests in Democratic coalition Tlaib announces run in new Detroit district with Lawrence retiring MORE (D-Mich.), Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarSenate needs to confirm Deborah Lipstadt as antisemitism envoy — Now Overnight Defense & National Security — DOD watchdog to review extremism screening Omar calls for closure of Guantánamo Bay prison after 20 years of 'lawlessness and cruelty' MORE (D-Minn.) and Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezLouisiana Rep. Troy Carter announces positive COVID-19 test Joining Pelosi, Hoyer says lawmakers should be free to trade stocks Schumer prepares for Senate floor showdown with Manchin, Sinema MORE (D-N.Y.).
The legislation, which sets the powerful Israel lobby against the American Civil Liberties Union, is sure to prove a headache for Hoyer, Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiJoining Pelosi, Hoyer says lawmakers should be free to trade stocks Budowsky: To Dems: Run against the do-nothing GOP, Senate Momentum builds to prohibit lawmakers from trading stocks MORE (D-Calif.) and other Democratic leaders, as it will highlight the stark divisions in their diverse caucus over the thorny issue of Israel and U.S. foreign policy toward their long-standing ally in the Middle East.
GOP leaders are already seeking to exploit that divide, having introduced a discharge petition earlier in the year to force Rubio's anti-boycott bill to the House floor. That measure has no chance of winning enough signatures to force a vote in the Democratically controlled chamber.
But Republicans are hoping to keep Israel-related issues in the headlines as they bash Democrats for defending recent comments from Tlaib related to the Holocaust.
Hoyer, a staunch Israel supporter, has opposed the BDS movement, citing the economic harm it could impose on "a very strong ally of the United States." But he dismissed the GOP discharge petition as a political stunt.
"[It] is more about politics than it is about the substance of the issue," he said.
Hoyer, who had defended Tlaib from the GOP attacks earlier in the week, also went after Republican leaders, accusing them of twisting the words of the Michigan freshman for political gain.
"They are trying to use it as a political wedge, and what the Speaker and I both thought — and I still think — is that the remarks were not anti-Semitic," Hoyer said. "That doesn't mean we agreed with all the remarks, but they were not anti-Semitic."