(March 22, 2022 / JNS) Ahead of a likely vote on the nomination for Deborah Lipstadt to serve as the U.S. State Department’s Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, how many Republicans, if any, will vote to favorably report her nomination out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee remains to be seen.
Democrats are expressing concern that Republican members of the committee are being instructed by Ranking Member Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho) to vote against her nomination, according to a Democratic Senate aide.
Meanwhile, a Senate minority committee spokesperson denied to JNS that Risch is whipping the Republicans to vote against Lipstadt’s nomination but did say that Risch has indicated to Republican members how he intends to vote, though declined to respond which way that would be.
Several other Republican committee member offices reached out to by JNS did not respond to that question.
The effort comes weeks after a committee meeting on March 8, when Lipstadt’s nomination was blocked by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) after his objections. A vote was therefore postponed until the committee’s next scheduled meeting on Wednesday when a vote can no longer be blocked by a single member.
With a committee split evenly between Republicans and Democrats, a tie vote is likely if the Republicans vote unanimously against Lipstadt.
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) may choose to file a discharge motion in lieu of a committee recommendation, kicking off a process to bring her nomination to a vote on the Senate floor. The process requires considerable added floor time—always at a premium. A discharge motion is also seen by some as undercutting the committee process of vetting and recommending nominees.
Movement on the issue faced a six-month delay to even get a hearing in front of the committee in February, despite calls from numerous Jewish organizations to expedite the process due to an uptick in anti-Semitic attacks worldwide. The delays were largely seen as retribution from Johnson and the committee’s Republicans for Lipstadt’s previous political tweets, including once calling a statement by the senator on a radio show “white supremacy” when he stated that he was not as concerned by the mostly white insurgents at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, but would be more concerned if the riots were by Black Lives Matters and Antifa members if former President Donald Trump had won re-election.
Republicans rejected that the delay had anything to do with such tweets and was just part of a thorough vetting process.
‘Words have power to them’
Lipstadt, 75, is a top Holocaust historian and the Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust studies at Emory University. She was nominated by U.S. President Joe Biden on July 30.
At the committee hearing on Feb. 8, Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. Robert Menendez (R-N.J.) defended her tweet against Johnson, saying the nominees the committee received from the Trump administration had even more “outrageous” statements he could have highlighted, but they were still confirmed.
“If we cannot call out comments for what they are—if we don’t understand that words have power to them—sometimes very negative, powerful consequences, then we can never challenge whether it be anti-Semitism or racism or other elements,” he said during the hearing.
“I think it also worth pointing out that the rioters on that day literally wore and bore Nazi symbolism, including T-shirts that said ‘6MWE,’ which stands for 6 million—those who perished in the Holocaust—was not enough, and a T-shirt saying ‘Camp Auschwitz’ on one side, and on the other side of that t-shirt ‘Staff,’ as well as confederate flags and nooses,” noted Menendez. “Maybe the senator was not afraid for his life, but every Jewish person in the Capitol certainly had reason to be concerned for theirs.”
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