Congress moves to force White House to fill vacant anti-Semitism envoy post
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Congress moves to force White House to fill vacant anti-Semitism envoy post

House passes legislation elevating long-empty position of monitor, and compelling president to make nomination within 90 days; bill still requires Senate approval

Illustrative: The Capitol in Washington is seen early Thursday, July 13, 2017, (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Illustrative: The Capitol in Washington is seen early Thursday, July 13, 2017, (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

The US House of Representatives on Thursday approved a bill elevating the post of the government’s anti-Semitism monitor and forcing the administration to fill the position, which has been vacant for the past 20 months.

The monitor tracks and reports on anti-Semitism worldwide, and makes representations to foreign governments about US concerns regarding anti-Semitism in their lands.

The Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Act of 2018 passed by the House increases Congressional oversight of the post and changes it from a presidential appointment to a nomination that must be ratified by the Senate.

It also raises the rank of the special envoy to that of an ambassador and states that he will report directly to the Secretary of State.

The bill also dictates that the president must nominate an envoy within 90 days of its passage.

The position was created in 2004, but has not been filled since January 2017, when Donald Trump became president, and the office shut down in July of that year. Since then, Jewish groups and lawmakers have been pushing the Trump administration to fill the post.

“Tragically, anti-Semitism is on the rise across the globe,” Republican Rep. Peter Roskam of Illinois, co-chair of the Bipartisan Taskforce for Combating anti-Semitism, said in a statement following the legislation’s passage in the House. “The bipartisan Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Act reinforces our nation’s leadership in fighting this scourge by elevating the position of Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism to the rank of Ambassador and ensuring that the Special Envoy is solely focused on this important task.

“History teaches us that anti-Semitism is defeated only when it is confronted directly. The Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Act is a strong step forward as Congress seeks to defeat global anti-Semitism.”

In May, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had pledged to take action on naming an envoy, but there has been little news of progress since.

US President Donald Trump, right, listens to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during press conference after a summit of heads of state and government at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, July 12, 2018. (Geert Vanden Wijngaert/AP)

The bill was sponsored by Republican Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey, who helped author the 2004 law that created the post.

The Anti-Defamation League praised the new bill’s passage on Thursday, saying it “has been a top priority for ADL, as has urging the Administration to select a qualified individual to fill the State Department post of US Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism without delay. ”

After passage by the House, the bill will now move to the Senate for passage into law.

JTA contributed to this report.

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