WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Congressman Brian Mast (FL-18) today filed a discharge petition on H.R. 336, the Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act of 2019. Rep. Mast was joined by Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (CA-23), Republican Whip Steve Scalise (LA-1), Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney (WY-At Large), Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Michael McCaul (TX-10), Congressman David Kustoff (TN-8) and Congressman Lee Zeldin (NY-1).
The Senate took swift action earlier this year against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement and passed the Senate companion to H.R. 336, S. 1, in a widely bipartisan vote. Since then, we have seen an alarming chorus of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic rhetoric from Democrat members of Congress, and Speaker Pelosi has refused to bring H.R. 336 to the floor to protect radically anti-Israel elements of her caucus from taking a tough vote. Between a disturbing rise in anti-Semitism and direct threats to Israel’s security, Rep. Mast believes is critical that we take action to support our most important ally and reaffirm Israel’s right to exist.
“The goal of the BDS movement is to delegitimize and destroy Israel. The Senate passed a bipartisan rebuke of this brazen bigotry, but Nancy Pelosi and her cadre of far-left anti-Semites have blocked it in the House," Rep. Mast said. "They are purposefully inflaming tensions with the goal of isolating and tearing down anybody who supports freedom, human rights and stability in the Middle East. Now, with Democrats calling the Holocaust ‘calming’ and frequently using anti-Semitic tropes, the American people deserve to know whether their elected Representatives have the courage to stand up against the extreme anti-Israel factions taking over the Democratic party.”
Filing a discharge petition is a procedural tool available to the minority in Congress to bypass obstruction by Democratic leadership and bring H.R. 336 to the floor for consideration if more than half of the total Members of Congress sign the petition. Today, Whip Scalise will begin efforts to corral signatures on the rule. Last Congress, nearly 30 current House Democrat members cosponsored similar anti-BDS legislation. Now, they along with other members of their caucus who claim to stand for Israel, will need to make it clear to their constituents where they stand on this legislation.
H.R. 336 is a four-part legislative package to protect U.S. national interests in the Middle East. It is the House companion to S. 1, which recently passed the Senate by a vote of 77-23 and contains the following four bills:
- The Ileana Ros-Lehtinen United States-Israel Security Assistance Act of 2019 to authorize security assistance to Israel for 10 years;
- The U.S.-Jordan Defense Cooperation Extension Act to extend Jordan’s eligibility to receive special treatment for transfer of U.S. defense articles and services.
- The Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act of 2019 (passed the House by voice vote in January 2019) to provide the Administration with new tools to sanction those who provide significant financial, material, or technological support to the Assad regime’s war against the Syrian people; and
- The Combating BDS Act of 2019 to allow state and local governments to adopt laws to divest public funds from entities that boycott Israel.
House Republican Leadership and others members today spoke out about the need to pass this bill:
Leader McCarthy: “As elected leaders we have a duty to address the rising trend of anti-Semitism we are seeing across the nation and around the world. The BDS movement is a vile manifestation of anti-Semitism that seeks to isolate and shame an American ally; its fundamental motives run counter to our core American principles and ideals. House Republicans remain committed to making sure this bipartisan legislation gets a vote in the People’s House and we hope our Democratic colleagues will join us in standing up against BDS.”
Whip Scalise: “The BDS movement has one goal: to delegitimize the only Jewish state in the world. Leaders and financial backers of the anti-Israel campaign reportedly have close ties to Hamas, which the United States and European Union consider a terrorist organization. Simply put, this movement has no place in our nation and our local governments should have the ability to divest public funds from BDS-participating organizations. As Israel faces external threats in the Middle East and Jewish-Americans face anti-Semitism at home, it is critical that Republicans and Democrats alike immediately sign this discharge petition to stand with Israel and reaffirm its right to exist.”
Conference Chair Cheney: “For decades, American support for Israel has been unwavering and bipartisan. But today we are confronting a pivotal moment. Members of the House Democratic caucus are attempting to erode our long-standing support by spreading anti-Israel and anti-Semitic beliefs. Unfortunately, Democratic leadership is acting as an enabler. We face too dangerous a situation to stand idly by. When it comes to anti-Semitism, what begins as a few remarks can all too easily mutate into something much worse. Everyone, especially elected officials, has an obligation to forcefully condemn this sort of hateful rhetoric. That is why all members of Congress should sign on to the anti-BDS discharge petition that will be on the floor later today. Speaker Pelosi continues to refuse to bring this bill to the floor. She and the rest of the Democratic leadership are letting the most radical members, who are embracing anti-Semitism, control their caucus. This bill supports states that refuse to buy into discriminatory economic warfare efforts aimed at Israel. It is critical for combating anti-Israel sentiment, and shows that the United States stands categorically with the Jewish State. This bill passed the Senate with over 75 votes. Nearly 30 Democrats supported similar legislation last Congress. Democrats must now prioritize a commitment to doing what is right over their commitment to Nancy Pelosi. We call on our colleagues on the other side: sign on to this discharge petition, allow the House to vote on it, and show that fringe anti-Semitism from the far-left is the exception, not the rule, for House Democrats.”
Ranking Member McCaul: “The BDS movement claims to be about peace and equality but in reality it is a discriminatory tool of economic warfare designed to punish Israel. This unprecedented boycott of our strongest ally in the Middle East undermines any negotiations between Israel and Palestine. It is in the best interest of our national security and foreign policy that the United States Congress strongly oppose this movement and all that it stands for. At the start of the year, the Senate acted decisively to take a stand against the BDS movement, support our allies Israel and Jordan, and sanction the ruthless Assad regime by passing S.1 with overwhelming bipartisan support. House Democratic leadership continues to refuse to bring its counterpart and my bill, H.R. 336, to the floor. I urge my colleagues to join me in standing against this immoral campaign and support legislation to empower our allies and defeat our enemies. Every member of Congress should sign this discharge petition today.”
Rep. Zeldin: “We have witnessed the rise of anti-Semitism and anti-Israel hate throughout the world, in our nation, on college campuses and within the halls of Congress, and whether this bigotry is brazen or it's blatant anti-Semitism deceptively called ‘legitimate' we must crush it wherever it exists. Too many in this chamber have emboldened this rhetoric by accepting the BDS movement whose founder, in referring to Zionism, said 'I, for one, support euthanasia.' Members of Congress can no longer hide behind procedural roadblocks. The American people deserve to know where each and every one of us stand and what we are willing to do about it, which is why we're doing what House Democratic leadership won't; unapologetically bringing legislation to the floor that not only condemns the BDS movement but helps stop it.”
Rep. Kustoff: “Israel is our greatest friend and ally in the Middle East and the United States will always stand shoulder to shoulder with her. Movements like the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign should be condemned on a bipartisan basis. This movement isolates and shames Israel. I hope my colleagues on both sides of the aisle can stand with me in combatting this hatred.”