Democrats vote to delay passage of Israel bill until shutdown ends

WASHINGTON – A bill that would codify a defense memorandum of understanding with Israel and support state and local efforts to combat the BDS movement failed to proceed in the Senate on Tuesday, stalled by Democrats who insist on reopening the government before passing any nonessential legislation.

Three weeks into a government shutdown that has and without paychecks, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York, said his caucus will not vote in favor of any bills until the crisis passes. He and several other senators support the Israel-related legislation on its merits, and it is expected to pass once the shutdown ends.

Even with temporary Democratic opposition, three senators from their side of the aisle – Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Doug Jones of Alabama and the newly elected Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona – voted to move forward with the bill, titled the Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act of 2019.

Passage of S. 1 – the first bill entered in this Senate session – would codify a 10-year memorandum of understanding on military assistance with Israel negotiated by the Obama administration; reauthorize defense cooperation with Jordan; reimpose sanctions on entities financing the Syrian government; and authorize state and local governments to combat the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.

All of these provisions enjoyed bipartisan support as stand-alone bills last year, but Congress’s failure to pass them before midnight on New Year’s Day meant they expired and had to be reintroduced. Sen. Marco Rubio, the senior Republican from Florida, did so as one catchall bill last week.

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