Senate Democrats say Republicans suspend bid for anti-Semitic post
Biden appointed Deborah Lipstadt, Emory professor of modern Jewish history and Holocaust studies, on July 30. So far, Lipstadt has not even been invited to be heard by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Lipstadt has previously worked with the Democratic and Republican administrations and enjoys strong support from a wide range of Jewish groups.
“Our Republican colleagues refused to grant him a hearing before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations,” committee chairman Bob Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey, told CNN. Typically, Democratic and Republican committee members agree to have an audience for a candidate.
Menendez said they were approaching a time when he could go against tradition to bypass the committee and move Lipstadt’s nomination straight to the Senate where Democrats hold a majority.
Republicans have denied they are delaying the confirmation process.
“I wouldn’t say we are delaying it,” said Republican Senator Jim Risch, a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, adding that they were awaiting additional documents from Lipstadt. An aide said they spoke to Lipstadt on Tuesday.
When asked if he thought they would ultimately give a hearing in Lipstadt, Risch replied, “I think so”, but offered no timeline.
What is the delay?
Risch said members were concerned about Lipstadt’s previous tweets.
In a March 14 tweet, Lipstadt reacted to comments from Republican Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, writing: “This is white supremacy / nationalism. Pure and simple.
Lipstadt was referring to Johnson’s comments that he might have been concerned for his welfare in the Jan.6 attack if the protesters had been affiliated with Black Lives Matter instead of being a largely white crowd and pro-Trump.
Asked about Lipstadt’s nomination and the tweet, Johnson said: “I feel like we have so many nominations going around right now, I really can’t comment at this point.”
Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who is also a member of the committee, said he was not aware of Lipstadt’s nomination.
“I’m not sure I’ve reviewed this nomination yet. To be frank, that doesn’t ring a bell,” Rubio told CNN.
“I want to make sure that whoever is there is someone we can count on to be heard in the world and that anything he has said in the past will not undermine his ability to do his job,” said Rubio. “But I just don’t want to comment on an appointment that I haven’t fully reviewed yet.”
Menendez said there was nothing in his background that should be a problem.
“If speaking out against anti-Semitism in the past is somehow an obstacle to that appointment, and that would be an incredible set of circumstances, because that’s what we want that person to do,” he said.
Strong support from the Jewish community
In a rare joint statement, the Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish Federations of North America and the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America sent a letter to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on November 4 urging its members to to act.
“There is no doubt that Professor Lipstadt has the necessary powers to deserve a proper hearing before the Committee on Foreign Relations – and this hearing is now overdue,” the letter said.
It is important to note the united support of Jewish groups.
“Finding that level of agreement with someone on an issue as controversial as anti-Semitism is rare,” Yair Rosenberg, a writer who covers anti-Semitism for The Atlantic, told CNN.
“And it’s very rare to see that and it’s rare to see people then say, ‘Well, we don’t care what all these Jewish groups think,'” Rosenberg said.
In an attempt to move the nomination forward, a number of House Democrats who sit on the bipartisan House Anti-Semitism Task Force – led by Representatives Kathy Manning of North Carolina and Ted Deutch of Florida – wrote a letter to Menendez and Risch urging them to audition for Lipstadt.
“In recent months, we have witnessed growing threats against Jewish communities in our own country and around the world,” the group wrote. “We believe it is vital to have a special envoy in place to address these threats and ensure that the United States continues to lead the world in the fight against anti-Semitism.”
Rosenberg told CNN that the blocked nomination was “a much larger effort to block Biden’s candidates and prevent their confirmations.”
“It’s a typical partisan war, but this time it’s not a victimless crime, is it?” short of ropes because the Republicans will not move on this confirmation. “