S. 1; Congressional Record Vol. 165, No. 3
(Senate - January 08, 2019)

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[Pages S63-S64]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]


                                  S. 1

  Mrs. FEINSTEIN. Mr. President today I rise in opposition to S. 1. We 
should be working to reopen the Federal Government, not voting to 
infringe upon Americans' First Amendment rights.
  S. 1 is a package of four bills that were introduced during the last 
Congress. Three of the bills concern U.S. aid to Israel and Jordan, as 
well as sanctions against the Assad regime. They are noncontroversial, 
and I support them.
  Unfortunately, the fourth bill, which is entitled the ``Combatting 
BDS Act of 2019,'' is so controversial that I am compelled to vote 
against the entire package before us tonight.
  This Israel boycott legislation would encourage States and localities 
to restrict First Amendment protections for millions of Americans. It 
would do so by tacitly endorsing State actions to cut financial ties 
and terminate any government contract with anyone who engages in or 
supports boycotts of Israel.
  My grandfather arrived in the United States as a stowaway fleeing the 
Polish pogroms, and my grandmother's family fled Russia during the 
revolution.
  As a young child during World War II, I came to view Israel as a 
symbol that never again will there be another Holocaust. My support for 
Israel isn't about politics. It is about Israel's right to exist.
  I will always support a free and democratic Israel as the homeland of 
the Jewish people. That is why I have always voted to provide Israel 
the security assistance it needs.
  However, my unwavering support for Israel does not override my 
support for Americans' constitutional rights.

[[Page S64]]

  The right to free speech is the foundation of American democracy. Any 
legislation that encroaches on that foundation should be considered 
with great caution. I don't believe that has been the case here.
  Federal courts have already ruled against similar laws regarding 
boycotts of Israel enacted by Arizona and Kansas.
  In Kansas, the State legislature passed a law in 2017 requiring any 
individual or company that contracts with the State sign a 
certification that they are not participating in a boycott of Israel.
  In Arizona, State law requires any company that contracts with the 
State to certify that it is not engaged in a boycott of Israel and that 
it will not do so in the future.
  Federal courts in both States found that these laws raised 
substantial First Amendment concerns by infringing on individuals' 
right to political expression and issued preliminary injunctions 
blocking their enforcement.
  Given the courts' rulings in Arizona and Kansas, I fail to see why 
supporters believe this legislation can be considered constitutional.
  Equally alarming, the legislation would also apply to Israeli 
settlements in the West Bank, territory that Israel has never claimed 
as its own.
  Today, there are more than 400,000 Israelis living on 132 settlements 
in the West Bank. Since President Trump took office, the Netanyahu 
government has accelerated the expansion of existing settlements, 
created new settlements and outposts, and taken steps to retroactively 
legalize settlements built on private Palestinian land.
  Enacting legislation to stifle criticism of settlements on land 
beyond Israel's borders would set a dangerous precedent that would 
further erode our credibility as a neutral arbiter in the Middle East 
conflict.
  Instead of wasting time on this unconstitutional bill, the Senate 
should instead focus on reopening the government by voting on the 
Federal funding package the House passed last week.
  I fail to see why S. 1 should be a priority during the government 
shutdown. The Senate has a responsibility to uphold the Constitution 
and keep the government running. This bill does neither.

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