McConnell is attempting to show that, on Israel, Republicans are actually largely in agreement, whereas Democrats have a growing problem. The political battle over foreign policy leading up to 2020 has begun, and McConnell just fired the opening salvo.
Picking a fight over Rubio’s Combating BDS Act does show that the GOP is almost completely in lockstep behind this terrible legislation, but it’s not clear why McConnell thinks this is to his party’s advantage in future elections. Rubio’s bill is such a clear violation of the First Amendment that it makes it extremely easy for even the most hawkish Democratic senators to vote against it without having to endorse the BDS movement.
Yesterday, the Senate bill that contains the unconstitutional anti-BDS measure went down to defeat for the third time. Even Bob Menendez (D-NJ) voted against it this time after voting for cloture last week. Trying to push this through during the shutdown has made it even easier for Democrats that might otherwise support Rubio’s awful bill to vote against it. If this was supposed to be a maneuver to expose rifts among Democrats, it has backfired about as badly as it could have. The repeated, failed attempts to advance this legislation have shown McConnell and the Senate GOP to be both tone-deaf and incompetent.
Senate Republicans have chosen to make a fight over a flagrantly unconstitutional bill their top priority in the new Congress, and they have decided that doing this during a partial government shutdown is smart politics. They’re wrong, and it isn’t going to win them any votes. More to the point, it sends a message that the GOP’s priorities are so warped that they put policing the debate over Israel ahead of the Constitution and the business of governing this country.