During final consideration of a House bill regarding retirement savings, North Carolina Rep. Patrick McHenry offered a motion to recommit that would have required the legislation to be amended before it passed. McHenry was looking to add a section that would have required some individuals who boycott Israel to report that information to the IRS and potentially be penalized for it.
HR 1994 – the “Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act of 2019” was a noncontroversial bill introduced by Massachusetts Rep. Richard Neal to update the Internal Revenue Code of 1986. It passed the House easily, but right before the vote Rep. McHenry approached the floor and called for an additional component to be added to the bill: “Reports by Taxpayers Engaged in Boycotts Etc. Affecting Israel.” McHenry gave an impassioned speech denouncing Democrats who have previously voted against anti-BDS bills and denounced BDS supporters as anti-Semitic.
“It may be polite in certain company to say you boycott, you divest, you sanction the State of Israel,” declared McHenry, “It is not polite to say that you are anti-Semitic. But what the BDS movement says is that you are anti-Semitic. What you say by supporting the BDS movement is that you are okay with discriminating against people because of their faith; you are okay discriminating against the Jewish people because you don’t like–well, let me stop there.”
McHenry’s bill would have changed the law to equate voluntary boycotts of Israel with coercive boycotts that are already part of a given state’s policy. As a result, individuals who boycott the state would be required to share this fact with the IRS when they filed their taxes.
“This is a brazen violation of Americans’ right to free speech,” Foundation for Middle East Peace president Lara Friedman writes at the group’s website. “It is also a McCarthyistic tactic of required self-reporting designed to enable – and legitimize – the U.S. government in building a list of Americans tracking their political views/activities.”
Despite the fact that McHenry tried to sneak the section in at the last minute without public debate or discussion, his amendment was defeated by just 20 votes. Not only did 188 Republicans vote for it, 12 Democrats broke ranks to back McHenry’s move: New Jersey’s Josh Gottheimer, New York’s Joe Brindisi, South Carolina’s Joe Cunningham, Oklahoma’s Kendra Horn, Virginia’s Elaine Luria, Massachusetts’ Seth Moulton (a presidential candidate), Michigan’s Elissa Slotkin, Virginia’s Abigail Spanberger, New Jersey’s Jefferson Van Drew, and Pennsylvania’s Chrissy Houlahan.