Democratic Senator Ben Cardin is “making a behind-the-scenes push to slip an anti-boycott law into a last-minute spending bill”, reported the Intercept citing “sources familiar with the negotiations”.
The “Israel Anti-Boycott Act” was originally shelved after opposition from civil liberties groups who argued that the legislation would allow “criminal penalties for Americans who participate in a political boycott of Israel”.
As reported by the Intercept, while “some of the more aggressive elements of the provision have been removed under pressure”, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), “which spearheaded the initial opposition to the bill, is still strongly opposed” to the amended version.
In a letter to Congress dated 3 December, the ACLU warned that the amended version still creates unconstitutional restrictions on free speech.
“We understand the Senate is considering attaching a revised version of S. 720 to the end-of-the-year omnibus spending bill, and we urge you to oppose its inclusion.”
The Israel Anti-Boycott Act, introduced last year by Cardin and Senator Rob Portman, “would amend the 1979 Export Administration Act to allow penalties for companies who join boycotts of Israel called for by international institutions — like the United Nations or the European Union”.
As reported by Mondoweiss, proponents of the bill are concerned that “time could be running out”, with “just days before Democrats take control of the House, and with numerous cosponsors leaving office due to retirements and midterm losses”.
The House spending bill was scheduled to be passed by 7 December, but due to the funeral of former President George Bush, “a one-week stopgap bill is set to be passed this week and the spending legislation will be decided next week”.