Less than 24 hours after Senate Democrats successfully voted down a motion to proceed to legislation that would give states and localities more power to punish pro-Palestinian boycotts of Israel, rights groups raised alarm and urged Americans to call their senators immediately on Wednesday as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) moved to bring the bill up for yet another procedural vote.
"McConnell apparently has no more important business to take care of in the Senate than trying to force a vote twice in 24 hours to strip away our First Amendment right to boycott for Palestinian rights."
—Josh Ruebner, U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights
"When was the last time the Senate voted twice in less than 24 hours to consider the same bill?" Josh Ruebner, policy director a the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights, asked on Twitter. "They're doing it right now on S.1, a bill to authorize $38 billion in weapons for Israel and encourage states to deny contracts to people who support boycotts for Palestinian rights."
"McConnell apparently has no more important business to take care of in the Senate than trying to force a vote twice in 24 hours to strip away our First Amendment right to boycott for Palestinian rights," Ruebner added, alluding to the fact that the Republican leader is refusing to allow a vote on legislation to reopen the government.
In response to McConnell's rapid attempt to re-vote on a motion that failed Tuesday night, Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) issued an urgent call for people to contact their representatives and pressure them to oppose the measure again.
"Republicans have already reintroduced S.1 for another cloture vote!" JVP noted after applauding Tuesday's vote as a "major victory" for free expression.
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While the second vote on the motion was initially expected by Wednesday night, the Senate announced that the vote has been moved to 1:45 pm ET on Thursday.
URGENT @senatemajldr demanded a revote after S.1 FAILED to pass yesterday. The vote is happening at 11am (EST) so with the little time we have left, call your senators to demand they protect our #RightToBoycott ... AGAIN https://t.co/iET4BJnSMb
— JewishVoiceForPeace (@jvplive) January 9, 2019
Sponsored by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), S.1 is a package of foreign-policy legislation that includes a measure to give states and localities more legal authority to punish companies and individuals who participate in the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. The ACLU, Palestinian rights groups, and progressive lawmakers have denounced the bill as a flagrant attack on the First Amendment.
"The bill, Combatting BDS Act, encourages states to adopt the very same anti-boycott laws that two federal courts blocked on First Amendment grounds," Kathleen Ruane, senior legislative counsel at the ACLU, said in a statement. "The legislation, like the unconstitutional state anti-boycott laws it condones, sends a message to Americans that they will be penalized if they dare to disagree with their government."
The motion to end debate and proceed to a final vote on the legislation—which needed 60 votes to pass—failed Tuesday night by a margin of 56-44, with four Senate Democrats voting with Republicans in favor of the motion. Those Democrats were: Bob Menendez (N.J.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.), and Doug Jones (Ala.).