WASHINGTON — The US House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed legislation on Friday to force US President Donald Trump to permanently pick an anti-Semitism envoy, a position that has been left vacant since he took office.
The measure — called the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Act — was approved by legislators on a 411-1 vote on the House floor. The only lawmaker to vote against the bill was Rep. Justin Amash, a Republican from Michigan.
The bill would upgrade the State Department’s global anti-Semitism envoy to the ambassador level, which would impose a legal limit of 90 days for how long any administration can leave the job unfilled.
The impetus for such a bill, however, was Trump’s failure to pick someone for that opening over the last two years, despite frequent calls from Jewish groups that the role was needed as anti-Semitic incidents were on the rise.
“Particularly in light of rising rates of anti-Semitic incidents in countries around the world, we welcome the overwhelming vote today passing the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Act,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, the head of the Anti-Defamation League. “It is disappointing and, frankly, baffling that this critical position has remained vacant since January 2017.”
The same legislation was also overwhelmingly passed in the House during the last Congress but did not get a vote in the Senate. It was reintroduced by its author, Republican Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey, after the 116th Congress convened last week. In order to become a law, the measure must pass the Senate, and likely by a veto-proof majority to avoid the president thwarting its implementation.
Greenblatt urged the Senate to “take up this bill in a timely manner.”
The anti-Semitism envoy position was created in 2004, but after Trump became president in 2016 the office shut down in July of that year. Jewish groups and Capitol Hill lawmakers have vehemently urged the president to fill the position.
“Tragically, anti-Semitism is on the rise across the globe,” said Republican Rep. Peter Roskam, who co-chairs the Bipartisan Taskforce for Combating Anti-Semitism, last fall. “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.