22 senators call on Biden to hasten antisemitism envoy nomination

The letter comes shortly after Biden formally submitted his first ambassadorial nominees

U.S. Senate

Sens. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and James Lankford (R-OK)

Twenty-two senators sent a bipartisan letter to President Joe Biden yesterday calling on him to “swiftly” nominate an ambassador to monitor and combat antisemitism.

The letter, organized by Sens. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and James Lankford (R-OK), who lead the Senate Bipartisan Task Force for Combating Antisemitism, comes as Biden submitted his first round of ambassador nominees — all of them career foreign service officials — for Senate confirmation on Monday.

The other signatories on the letter are Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV),  Roy Blunt (R-MO), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Rob Portman (R-OH), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Shelly Moore Capito (R-WV), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), John Boozman (R-AR), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Tim Scott (R-SC), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Bob Casey (D-PA), Chris Coons (D-DE) and Mark Kelly (D-AZ). 

“Swiftly nominating a qualified Ambassador to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism will help ensure that the United States remains a leader in combating anti-Semitism internationally and will equip the State Department with a designated senior diplomat to engage foreign governments to track and respond to this growing scourge,” the letter reads. “We encourage you to move quickly on the nomination, and look forward to working with you.”

President Donald Trump left the position — which previously did not require Senate confirmation — unfilled for the first two years of his term. In 2017, then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson cast doubt on whether the administration would fill the position at all. Tillerson’s successor Mike Pompeo appointed Elan Carr, a former Los Angeles deputy district attorney, to the job on February 5, 2019, amid growing pressure from Congress.

Congress passed a bill late last year upgrading the position’s status to a full ambassador requiring Senate confirmation.

Among the names reportedly in consideration for the slot are former Anti-Defamation League national director Abe Foxman, ADL vice president Sharon Nazarian, Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt, Simon Wiesenthal Center director of government affairs Mark Weitzman, National Coalition Supporting Eurasian Jewry CEO Mark Levin, Biden campaign Jewish outreach director Aaron Keyak and former National Council of Jewish Women CEO Nancy Kaufman. 

Kaufman is backed by IfNotNow, a group of activists critical of Israel, and gave an interview to The Forward expressing her interest in the envoy position.

An individual familiar with the matter told Jewish Insider in January that they were expecting an extended delay in filling the slot, due to the extensive background checks required for Senate-confirmed nominees, in addition to the confirmation process itself.

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