June 16, 2021

Menendez Objects to Senate UC Request to Fast Track Legislation Without Due Consideration by SFRC

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today took to the Senate Floor to object to a live unanimous consent request by Senator Rick Scott (R-Fla.) to skip regular committee consideration and debate by the SFRC for the Stop Taxpayer Funding of Hamas Act, which, given its overly broad provisions, could conceivably prohibit the United States from assisting in the reconstruction of or providing humanitarian aid to anyone living in Gaza. Given the strong bipartisan support for combatting terrorism and terrorism financing, there is no reason the bill should bypass committee consideration.

“All I can say to this is enough of using the U.S.-Israel relationship for partisan political purposes. It does damage to the United States. It does damage to the state of Israel,” Senator Menendez said. “Let’s remember why we invest in foreign aid programs in the first place. We do so in pursuit of our common humanity, our values, and our own security interests. So let’s recognize the political games being played on the Floor today for what they are, and reject them.”

Find a copy of Senator Menendez’s remarks as delivered below. 

“Madam President, reserving the right to object, I have real concerns about my colleague’s efforts to subvert the legislative process and push through a bill without due consideration from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. I know my distinguished colleague from Florida is very interested in these issues. I hope he would ask his leadership to put them on the Committee because he consistently comes to the Floor and wants to circumvent the Committee. This is not the first time.

Let me very clear: Hamas is a terrorist organization. And the terrorists who lead Hamas have no regard for human life, whether they be the lives of innocent Israelis targeted by their rocket attacks or the Palestinian families they constantly put in harm’s way. 

Israel has every right and responsibility to defend herself from attacks against their civilians, and the United States does not – and will not – ever provide funding to Hamas.

Neither of those statements are up for debate. In fact, I would argue that every single member of this body agrees with those assertions.

Indeed, the Senate has a long history of carefully crafting foreign aid programs with robust oversight, as well as sanctions that target Hamas and its supporters.

With that in mind, there is simply no reason this bill can’t go through regular order and sustain a markup in the Foreign Relations Committee. I looked at the date of introduction and subsequent referrals – less than three weeks.

We’ve done it before, and we can do it again.

As Chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, I have shown that I prioritize moving serious, bipartisan legislation. This bill in question is not a serious attempt at legislating. It is a partisan talking point.

Had the Senator from Florida, who is the Chair of the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, or any of the bill’s sponsors had a genuine interest in asserting Congress’ role in foreign policy and the hard work that goes into legislating, they would have gone through the regular order of the Committee process.

They did not.

Instead, I imagine they would rather relish in a tweet proclaiming that Democrats support taxpayer funding of Hamas or oppose defending Israel.

All I can say to this is enough of using the U.S.-Israel relationship for partisan political purposes. It does damage to the United States. It does damage to the state of Israel.

I am proud of my legislative efforts to defend Israel for over three decades.

And I would argue that the fact that these efforts have been bipartisan speaks to the strength of the U.S.-Israel relationship.

Both Republicans and Democrats share a long track record of working together to defend Israel’s right to exist and legislating accountability for U.S. taxpayer dollars spent overseas.

But we have to do the work. And I do believe there are Senators who are genuinely interested in working toward that goal.

The truth is we already have a number of laws and regulations in place regarding the delivery of life-saving humanitarian relief. As written, this bill – by way of example of why we have bills go through the Committee so they can be worked on – seems intended to ensure that nobody in Gaza could ever receive any of this support. The language is written so broadly, that, for example, before delivering clean water or water infrastructure, the President would effectively have to certify that anyone related to Hamas would never drink that water or drink from a water fountain that carried that water. This is simply absurd.

I would welcome a robust discussion on the ways we can continue to ensure that taxpayer dollars intended for lifesaving humanitarian relief in Gaza and elsewhere can get to those who need it the most and certainly evade and avoid the hands of Hamas.

Let’s remember why we invest in foreign aid programs in the first place. We do so in pursuit of our common humanity, our values, and our own security interests.

So let’s recognize the political games being played on the Floor today for what they are, and reject them.

And because of all those reasons, Madam President, I object." 

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