House GOP pushes to exploit Dem divisions over Israel

Republicans would need 21 Democrats and every single GOP lawmaker to sign the Rep. Brian Mast’s petition for the maneuver to succeed. | Larry French/Getty Images for SiriusXM

House Republicans on Wednesday launched a long-shot effort to force floor action on legislation condemning a global boycott aimed at Israel, hoping to exploit Democratic divisions over the U.S.-Israel relationship.

Rep. Brian Mast (R-Fla.) filed a discharge petition to circumvent Democratic leadership and bring to the House floor a bill denouncing the Global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, or BDS.

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But the move, like all discharge petitions, has very little chance of success. Republicans would need 21 Democrats and every single GOP lawmaker to sign the petition for the maneuver to succeed.

Still, Republicans see the situation as a win-win: They can either hammer Democrats for not backing the effort or expose divisions in the party if some of them do sign the petition.

“There is a rising trend in anti-Semitism across the world, and the elected leaders have a duty to address it,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said. “Political leaders on both sides of the aisle have a responsibility to confront the evil of the anti-Semitism head-on.”

While there is overwhelming support among Democrats for anti-BDS legislation — Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has even promised to put a similar resolution on the House floor this summer — there has been a leftward shift in the party when it comes to Israel.

Some of the younger and more progressive members have been critical of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, while some Democrats even back the BDS movement.

President Trump and Republicans have been eager to paint Democrats as anti-Jewish, seizing on comments made by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn) earlier this year that were seen as anti-Semitic.

But even the Democrats who condemned Omar’s remarks think the GOP has gone too far with their latest attack on Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), who made recent comments about the Holocaust and Israel on a podcast. Democrats view the discharge petition effort as just another Republican attempt to split the party and don’t want to give them more ammunition.

“I think it’s an effort to amp up the pressure,” one Democratic member said.