Senators Push Bill to Punish Boycotts of Israel Amid Shutdown

After The Intercept reported over the weekend that a bipartisan group of senators is pushing, as its first legislative priority, a bill that would hand states more power to punish boycotts of Israel — even as the prolonged and deeply harmful government shutdown continues into its third week — Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Sunday condemned the legislation itself and urged Democrats to block any bills that are not related to reopening the government.

“It’s absurd that the first bill during the shutdown is legislation which punishes Americans who exercise their constitutional right to engage in political activity. Democrats must block consideration of any bills that don’t reopen the government,” Sanders wrote on Twitter. “Let’s get our priorities right.”

Sponsored by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), the legislation would give states and localities more legal authority to punish companies that participate in the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

Kathleen Ruane, senior legislative counsel with the ACLU, condemned the measure as an attack on Americans’ First Amendment rights that must be voted down.

“In the midst of a partial government shutdown, Democratic and Republican senators have decided that one of their first orders of business… should be to sneak through a bill that would weaken Americans’ First Amendment protections,” Ruane declared.

“The bill, Combatting BDS Act, encourages states to adopt the very same anti-boycott laws that two federal courts blocked on First Amendment…

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