Senate panel set to pass bill banning PA funding over terrorism support
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Senate panel set to pass bill banning PA funding over terrorism support

Source says committee in negotiations over a revised version of the Taylor Force Act to be approved before August recess

Eric Cortellessa covers American politics for The Times of Israel.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tennessee), left, shakes hands with ranking member Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Maryland) during a committee markup meeting on the proposed nuclear agreement with Iran on April 14, 2015. (JTA/Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tennessee), left, shakes hands with ranking member Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Maryland) during a committee markup meeting on the proposed nuclear agreement with Iran on April 14, 2015. (JTA/Win McNamee/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is likely to pass a bill that would cut US funding to the Palestinian Authority over its financial support for terrorists before lawmakers leave Washington for their August recess.

A Capitol Hill source familiar with the matter told The Times of Israel on Monday that the panel will “probably” approve the Taylor Force Act, but that some negotiating was still needed to bring it over the finish line.

The legislation, named for a former US army officer who was stabbed to death by a Palestinian assailant while visiting Tel Aviv in March 2016, would require the Palestinian Authority to stop monetarily backing the families of terrorists who kill Israelis or else lose US aid.

The source said that the committee chairman, Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker (R), was still discussing revisions to the measure with South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham (R), who is not on the panel but who introduced the legislation in February. “If Corker and Graham work out the issues I know they continue to discuss,” the bill will advance through the committee, the source said.

At a hearing last week, Corker questioned what he described as an “all or nothing” approach reflected in Graham’s original text and openly expressed concern that pulling such funding could disrupt Israel’s security cooperation with the PA and lead to instability in the West Bank.

Several revisions have been recommended to address those issues, including giving the president waiver authority over the law if he finds it necessary to fund the PA for security purposes.

US President Donald Trump has not offered an opinion on the legislation, though he did confront PA President Mahmoud Abbas about the topic during their meetings in Washington and Bethlehem in May.

US President Donald Trump, left, and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas shake hands during a joint press conference at the presidential palace in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on May 23, 2017. (AFP/MANDEL NGAN)
US President Donald Trump, left, and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas shake hands during a joint press conference at the presidential palace in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on May 23, 2017. (AFP/MANDEL NGAN)

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, for his part, has also told House members there is an “active” bilateral discussion ongoing.

The United States currently gives the PA nearly $500 million in annual aid. The legislation would allow only the portion designated for security assistance — roughly $60 million — to remain in place.

Earlier on Monday, the two leaders of the Senate foreign affairs panel told a conservative US magazine they expected the bill to pass.

“It’ll be a pretty strong vote,” Maryland Senator Ben Cardin, the top-ranking Democrat on the committee, said to The Weekly Standard. “Hopefully, during this work period.”

Corker, meanwhile, said that “we have gotten the bill in a place where it’s going to receive overwhelming support.”

Thus far, only one Democratic senator has endorsed the bill — West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin — although both Cardin and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer signaled they could.

While neither has endorsed it in its present form, Cardin told his fellow committee members at the hearing last week that he “hopes we can find a way to pass the Taylor Force Act.”

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