WASHINGTON — The top Democrat in the Senate, Chuck Schumer, announced Friday he will cosponsor the Taylor Force Act, legislation that would cut US funding to the Palestinian Authority if it doesn’t stop paying terrorists and their families.
The United States currently gives the PA nearly $500 million in aid annually. The legislation would allow only the portions designated for security assistance — roughly $60 million —and humanitarian aid to remain in place.
The New York senator’s endorsement is the latest sign the bill is likely to receive bipartisan support in the full chamber. On Thursday, it advanced through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on a 17-4 vote.
Every Republican member of the panel supported the measure, as well as most Democrats, many of whom backed the bill after a revised version was introduced earlier in the week and several amendments were added during the markup session.
Those provisions ensured that funding for humanitarian efforts and security cooperation would not be interrupted and that an escrow account would be established for the aid that would be slashed. That escrow period would last one year.
The bill would not, however, include a waiver that would grant the US president the ability to disregard the law on national security grounds.
The Trump administration has indicated support in principle for the goal of the legislation. It has not commented on the revised version.
Announcing his support, Schumer said that the Taylor Force Act would incentivize the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, to end the policy of issuing social welfare payments to the families of Palestinian terrorists.
“President Abbas must be held accountable for the Palestinian Authority’s record of incitement and must stop subsidizing terror,” he said in a statement. “It’s abhorrent that the Palestinian Authority provides payments to terrorists and families of those who have committed terrorist violence against Israelis and Americans and others.
“I am a proud co-sponsor of the Taylor Force Act because it aims to put an end to this disturbing practice, which only perpetuates the cycle of violence and undercuts the drive to peace,” he added.
The thrust of the bill calls on “all donor countries” to “cease direct budgetary support until the Palestinian Authority stops all payments incentivizing terror” and would require the PA to revoke any laws that result in terrorists being compensated.
Furthermore, the State Department would be mandated to put out an annual, declassified report detailing the PA’s practices regarding cash payments that reward terrorism.
Other Democratic senators cosponsoring the measure include Ben Cardin (Maryland), Bob Menendez (New Jersey), Chris Coons (Delaware) and Bill Nelson (Florida).
South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) introduced the legislation in February. It is named after a former US army officer who was stabbed to death by a Palestinian terrorist in Tel Aviv in March 2016.
In the lead-up to Thursday’s committee vote — and after the revised version was released — the bill started to gain more organizational support, including from the most influential pro-Israel group in Washington.
“We are hopeful that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee markup will produce a strong, bipartisan bill that will send a very clear message to the Palestinian Authority: Stop these payments to terrorists and their families or your assistance will be cut,” the American Israel Public Affairs Committee said in a letter sent to senators Wednesday, urging them to vote yes.
Critics of the bill have expressed consternation over the prospect of a destabilizing effect stemming from cutting aid to the PA.
In June, hundreds of former high-level Israeli military officials sent a letter warning the bill would spur a security crisis.
The missive, which was orchestrated by Commanders for Israeli Security, said the legislation would “undermine PA stability; expand the circle of frustration and hostility; erode the security coordination; and thus hurt Israeli security.”
A source close to the group has since told The Times of Israel that its opposition was to the bill’s “original language” and that it would “support the amended draft.”
US President Donald Trump has not yet signaled that he would sign the bill into law, though a White House official told The Times of Israel last month he supports its principle objective.
“While the administration agrees with the high-level goals of the Taylor Force Act, it is currently in Congress’s hands and we will continue to closely monitor the specifics of the legislation,” the official said.