In the last week and a half of the 115th Congress, sponsors of the Israel Anti-Boycott Act are trying to have it included in a last-ditch legislative package before the majority in the House turns Democratic, more liberal and less sympathetic.
The bill was introduced by Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Rob Portman (R-OH) in the Senate and Juan Vargas (D-CA) and Peter Roskam (R-IL) in the House. The bill would penalize U.S. companies participating in international boycotts against the state of Israel.
Most Republicans support the measure, while Democrats who say they are concerned about the possibility it would not pass constitutional scrutiny are hedging, and its not clear that even this Congress would have enough votes to enact it.
The American Civil Liberties Union has been in the forefront of a campaign to oppose such legislation, on the grounds that it would infringe on the right to protest.
Although the bill has been revised to address that concern, passage remains uncertain.
Among supporters, the Jewish Democratic Council of America endorsed the bill as “consistent” with the 2016 Democratic Party platform.
“The bill will extend existing U.S. legal protections which protect companies from coercion by foreign countries to participate in boycotts of Israel to include protection from boycotts led by international governmental organizations, such as the United Nations,” the group stated.
On the other hand, the liberal J Street stands opposed, saying that it “would do nothing to help strengthen Israel’s security or effectively combat BDS.
“Instead,” the group argues, “it would alienate many of the supporters Israel needs most.”