Senate Democrats Block Bill Reaffirming U.S. Support For Mideast Allies

Legislation reaffirming the United States’ support for Middle East allies, including a proposed measure to penalize Americans that promote a boycott of Israel, was blocked by Senate Democrats amid a political dispute over border security that has resulted in a partial government shutdown for over three weeks. The vote was 56 for to 44 against, falling short of the 60 ballots needed to advance the “Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act.” During November’s mid-term elections, Republicans increased their majority in the Senate to 53 seats but still required the backing of at least seven Democrats to move the bill forward. Among its provisions were measures to impose new sanctions on Damascus and guarantee ongoing military assistance to both Israel and Jordan, moves construed as a means to somewhat alleviate the latter two nations’ concern over President Donald Trump’s decision last month to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria. Perhaps the foremost point of contention was a stipulation permitting state and local governments to punish American citizens for boycotting the Jewish state, a would-be power that many Democrats view as an infringement on the constitutional right to freedom of speech. Accordingly, even if the motion was approved by the Senate it is unlikely to have subsequently been passed by the House of Representatives, in which Democrats now hold a 235- to 199-seat majority.

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