Israel vote will expose Democratic divisions

The House is slated to pass legislation Tuesday to oppose the global boycott movement against Israel, a vote that will put a spotlight both on Democratic divisions and Rep. Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarKrystal Ball reacts to Ocasio-Cortez endorsing Sanders: 'Class power over girl power' The Hill's Morning Report - Tempers boil over at the White House Krystal Ball on Sanders debate performance: 'He absolutely hit it out of the park' MORE (D-Minn.).

Most Democrats in the House oppose the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, an international campaign meant to exert pressure on Israel over treatment of the Palestinians. Critics say it would isolate and harm Israel, which retains strong support in Congress from both parties.

ADVERTISEMENT

But the BDS movement has support in Congress from some progressives, including Omar, who has offered her own resolution affirming the rights of Americans to participate in boycotts meant to promote human rights either in the United States or other countries.

Omar has cited boycotts of Nazi Germany and Apartheid-era South Africa in making the case for her resolution — comparisons that have drawn the ire of Israel’s supporters.

Rep. Lee ZeldinLee ZeldinGraham huddles with House Republicans on impeachment strategy State Dept. official told to lay low after voicing concerns about Giuliani: Dem lawmaker Democrats gauge support for vote on impeachment inquiry MORE, a New York Republican who has frequently gone after Omar, criticized the Minnesotan’s resolution in a tweet last week for having the “nerve to claim moral equivalency between boycotting Nazi Germany and boycotting Israel.”

“Disgraceful,” Zeldin wrote.

The battle over the BDS movement on the House floor also comes as Omar has seen extraordinary attacks from President TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocratic senator rips Trump's 'let them fight' remarks: 'Enough is enough' Warren warns Facebook may help reelect Trump 'and profit off of it' Trump touts Turkey cease-fire: 'Sometimes you have to let them fight' MORE, who in the last eight days has called her anti-American and anti-Israel, and tweeted that she and three of her congressional allies should “go back” to where they came from. Three of the congresswomen targeted by the tweet were born in the United States, while Omar was born in Somalia.

Chants last week at a Trump rally of “send her back” — referring to Omar — shocked Democrats and Republicans alike. Omar is a U.S. citizen who came to the country as a refugee.

While Democrats have rallied around Omar in response to Trump’s barbs, the BDS fight threatens to tear at the Democratic caucus.

The resolution to formally oppose it has nearly 350 co-sponsors and is expected to pass easily with widespread bipartisan support. About three-quarters of House Democrats have co-sponsored the resolution authored by Rep. Brad SchneiderBradley (Brad) Scott SchneiderHouse Democrat pushes back against concerns that impeachment inquiry could spark political backlash Dem Congressman discusses plan to keep the house blue The Hill's Morning Report - New impeachment battle: Pompeo vs. House Dems MORE (D-Ill.), while close to 90 percent of Republicans have signed on. 

Democratic leaders, conscious of the intraparty debate, are bringing the anti-BDS resolution to the floor under a fast-track process, known as suspension of the rules, that requires a two-thirds supermajority for passage with only 40 minutes of debate — a briefer period that will cut down on the theatrics of a divided party.

Omar isn’t alone in opposing the resolution.

ADVERTISEMENT

Another Israel critic, Rep. Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibOcasio-Cortez mourns Cummings: 'A devastating loss for our country' Elijah Cummings, Democratic chairman and powerful Trump critic, dies at 68 Krystal Ball on Sanders debate performance: 'He absolutely hit it out of the park' MORE (D-Mich.), co-sponsored Omar’s resolution. Tlaib and Omar are the first two Muslim women to serve in Congress.

Tlaib, who is Palestinian American, earlier this month called the resolution opposing BDS “unconstitutional,” saying it seeks to “silence opposition of Israel’s blatantly racist policies that demonize both Palestinians & Ethiopians.”

Civil rights icon Rep. John LewisJohn LewisThe 13 House Democrats who back Kavanaugh's impeachment Detroit police chief calls Tlaib facial recognization idea 'racist' Ossoff raises 0k in first three weeks of Senate bid, campaign says MORE (D-Ga.) is a co-sponsor of Omar’s resolution affirming the right to participate in boycotts, which doesn’t mention the BDS movement, but is also co-sponsoring the measure opposing BDS.  

The vote will come days after House Democrats passed a resolution to condemn Trump’s attacks on Omar, Tlaib and Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezOcasio-Cortez mourns Cummings: 'A devastating loss for our country' Booker endorses Lipinski challenger Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle mourn Cummings MORE (N.Y.) and Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyOcasio-Cortez mourns Cummings: 'A devastating loss for our country' Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle mourn Cummings Omar endorses Sanders presidential bid MORE (Mass.).

The battle between Trump and the four women has been the dominant story in national politics for more than a week.

Schneider downplayed the potential for the vote to expose Democratic divisions over Israel, pointing to how most of the caucus has co-sponsored it.

“I think having this resolution, having it supported by overwhelming majorities in both parties, sends a clear signal and puts us on a better path toward enhancing Israel’s security, maintaining prospects for a two-state solution, and making clear where Congress stands on BDS,” Schneider said.

Schneider’s resolution doesn’t go as far as a bill passed by the Senate earlier this year that would allow state or local governments to refuse to do business with companies that boycott Israel.

But progressives like Omar and Tlaib, as well as 2020 presidential candidate Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersWarren raised more money from Big Tech employees than other 2020 Democrats: Report Krystal Ball reacts to Ocasio-Cortez endorsing Sanders: 'Class power over girl power' Saagar Enjeti praises Yang for bringing threat of automation to forefront at Ohio debate MORE (I-Vt.), have been joined by human rights and free speech groups in arguing that the Senate bill undermines First Amendment rights to free expression.

Instead, Democrats are settling for the resolution that merely expresses opposition to the BDS movement. It also reaffirms support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It argues that BDS “undermines the possibility for a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by demanding concessions of one party alone and encouraging the Palestinians to reject negotiations in favor of international pressure.”

In addition, the House is expected to pass another bill Tuesday from Rep. Ted DeutchTheodore (Ted) Eliot DeutchBacklash erupts at video depicting Trump killing media, critics House Ethics Committee reviewing two GOP lawmakers over campaign finance House Ethics panel reviewing Tlaib over campaign salary MORE (D-Fla.) that would authorize more security assistance to Israel.  

Deutch said the resolution would simply offer lawmakers a way to express their views about BDS without running into any potential constitutional issues.

“The resolution doesn’t restrict any First Amendment rights,” Deutch said. “It simply allows members of Congress to be on the record opposing a movement that attempts to delegitimize Israel’s very right to exist.”

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelTestimony from GOP diplomat complicates Trump defense Overnight Defense — Presented by Boeing — Pence says Turkey agrees to ceasefire | Senators vow to move forward with Turkey sanctions | Mulvaney walks back comments tying Ukraine aid to 2016 probe House Foreign Affairs leaders introduce Turkey sanctions bill MORE (D-N.Y.) dismissed the timing of the vote, stressing that it’s been in the works since the resolution was introduced in March to express support for Israel.

“This has nothing to do with Congresswoman Omar,” Engel said.

The Tuesday vote on the resolution will also come ahead of a Democratic delegation trip to Israel with House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerHillicon Valley: Zuckerberg defends handling of misinformation in political ads | Biden camp hits Zuckerberg over remarks | Dem bill would jail tech execs for lying about privacy | Consumer safety agency accidentally disclosed personal data House leaders offer tributes from floor to Elijah Cummings Maloney to serve as acting Oversight chairwoman after Cummings's death MORE (Md.) over the August recess organized by a group affiliated with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.