Biden nominated Deborah Lipstadt, an Emory professor of Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies, on July 30. Lipstadt has thus far not even been offered a hearing by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Lipstadt has previously worked with both Democratic and Republican administrations and enjoys strong support from a wide range of Jewish groups.
“Our Republican colleagues have refused to give her a hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee,” Committee Chairman Bob Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey, told CNN. Typically both Democratic and Republican members of the committee agree to have a hearing for a nominee.
Menendez said they’re approaching a time when he may go against tradition to bypass the committee and move to discharge Lipstadt’s nomination straight to the Senate floor where Democrats hold the majority.
Republicans denied that they were stalling the confirmation process.
“I wouldn’t say we’re holding it up,” said Republican Sen. Jim Risch, the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, adding they are waiting on additional materials from Lipstadt. An aide said they had spoken with Lipstadt on Tuesday.
When asked if he thinks they will ultimately give Lipstadt a hearing, Risch replied, “I think so” but offered no timeline.
What’s the hold up?
Risch said there has been some concern from members over Lipstadt’s previous tweets.
In one tweet from March 14, Lipstadt reacted to comments from Republican Sen. 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 well-being during the January 6 attack had the protestors been affiliated with Black Lives Matter instead of being a largely white, pro-Trump crowd.
When asked about Lipstadt’s nomination and the tweet, Johnson said, “I feel like we have so many nominations floating around right now, I really can’t comment at this point.”
Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who is also a member of the committee, said he was not familiar with Lipstadt’s nomination.
“I am not sure I have reviewed that nomination yet. To be frank, it 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 around the world and whatever they have said in the past won’t undermine their ability to do their job,” Rubio said. “But I just don’t want to comment on a nomination that I haven’t fully reviewed yet.”
Menendez said there was nothing in her background that should be a problem.
“If calling out anti-Semitism in the past is somehow an obstacle to this nomination, and that would be an amazing set of circumstances, because that’s what we want this 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 Senate Foreign Relations Committee on November 4 urging its members to act.
“There is no question that Prof. Lipstadt has the credentials to deserve a proper hearing before the Committee on Foreign Relations — and that hearing is now overdue,” the letter read.
The unified support of Jewish groups is important to note.
“To find this level of agreement about someone on such a contentious issue as anti-Semitism is rare,” Yair Rosenberg, a writer who covers anti-Semitism for The Atlantic, told CNN in an interview.
“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 along, a number of House Democrats who sit on the House Bipartisan Task Force for Combating Anti-Semitism — led by Reps. Kathy Manning of North Carolina and Ted Deutch of Florida — wrote a letter to Menendez and Risch pressing them for a hearing for Lipstadt.
“In recent months, we have witnessed growing threats against Jewish communities in our own country and worldwide,” the group wrote. “We believe it is vital to have a Special Envoy in place to confront these threats and ensure that the United States continues to lead the world in the fight against antisemitism.”
Rosenberg told CNN the stalled nomination is “a much broader effort to stall Biden’s nominees and prevent their confirmations.”
“It’s typical partisan warfare, but this time, it’s not a victimless crime, right? There’s the nominees themselves, and then in this case, there’s Jewish communities abroad that are protected by the anti-Semitism envoy position. And right now that office is short-stringed because the Republicans will not move forward on this confirmation.”