The first bill of a new session of Congress carries symbolic weight. That’s why Speaker Nancy Pelosi and team saved the designation of H.R. 1 for a bill expanding voting rights, fighting public corruption, and getting dark money out of politics—a bill Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says is “not going to go anywhere.” Of course not, because the first bill in his Senate is intended entirely to troll the Democrats. And it’s not working.
The Senate bill is called the “Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act of 2019” and was supposed to be a bipartisan rebuke of Trump’s surprise decision to leave Syria to Putin by imposing sanctions on Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government. But then McConnell decided to tack on a bill from Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) to “counter the ‘Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions’ movement by opposing boycotts or divestment from Israel.” Which turned it into a poison pill and an attempt to divide Democrats that Democrats refused to fall for.
Rubio tried to play up the division in a tweet, writing with absolutely no evidence that “A huge argument broke out at Senate Dem meeting last week over BDS. A significant # of Senate Democrats now support #BDS & Dem leaders want to avoid a floor vote that reveals that.” Nothing like exposing your own game there, Little Marco. It didn’t work. Here’s steadfast friend to Israel Sen. Dianne Feinstein on Monday, calling the bill what it is—unconstitutional: “The Israel anti-boycott legislation being brought before the Senate tomorrow would give states a free pass to restrict First Amendment protections for millions of Americans. Despite my strong support for Israel, I oppose this bill because it clearly violates the Constitution.”
It didn’t work with Sen. Chuck Schumer, either. He’s told his conference that he’s voting no on it, and a growing number of Democrats are joining him, calling for votes on reopening government before any other votes are taken.
While the entire Democratic conference seems to have recognized this for the clumsy trolling it is, the AP headline writers fell for it. “Senate GOP’s 1st bill on Israel boycotts divides Democrats,” their headline proclaims, over an article which gives not one shred of evidence that there is any split among Democrats on this bill. It quotes no Democrat saying they support the bill. That entire construct seems to come entirely from Rubio’s tweets. The one quote from a Democrat in the story comes from Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), who is on point, saying the Senate “should not take up any bills unrelated to reopening the government” until the shutdown is over.
Nice try, McConnell and Rubio, but no dice.
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.