Deborah Lipstadt, President Joe Biden's nominee to be antisemitism monitor, testifies in the Dirksen Office building near the U.S. Capitol, Feb. 8, 2022. (Photo/JTA-Ron Kampeas)
Deborah Lipstadt, President Joe Biden's nominee to be antisemitism monitor, testifies in the Dirksen Office building near the U.S. Capitol, Feb. 8, 2022. (Photo/JTA-Ron Kampeas)

Ron Johnson blocks vote on antisemitism envoy, meets with truckers instead

This story first appeared in the Forward.

Republican Sen. Ron Johnson on Tuesday blocked a vote on the nomination of Deborah E. Lipstadt as the Biden administration’s antisemitism envoy. Instead Johnson met with a group of truckers in Washington, D.C., in protest of the COVID-19 mandates and to support those imprisoned for participating in the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol.

Jewish groups expressed outrage at the holdup, with Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt calling Johnson’s behavior “disgraceful.”

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee was scheduled to vote to advance Lipstadt’s confirmation, one of about a dozen nominations, following a long-delayed and contentious hearing last month.

During the hearing Johnson accused Lipstadt, one of the foremost historians of the Holocaust, of engaging in the “malicious poison” of hatred for a tweet in which she accused him of engaging in white supremacy for his comments about the Jan. 6 riot. While Lipstadt expressed regret for the tweet, saying it was not meant as a personal or political attack, the Republican senator from Wisconsin indicated he would try to foil her nomination.

RELATED: S.F. native Aaron Keyak appointed as Biden’s deputy antisemitism envoy

Lipstadt was appointed as the State Department’s special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism in July, a position that has recently been elevated to the rank of an ambassador, and so requires Senate confirmation.

Sen. Bob Menendez, chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, said he accepted the Republican request to postpone the vote on Lipstadt’s nomination, along with the nomination of Barbara Leaf as assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs, and that both will be considered at the next business meeting. But Menendez, a Democrat, criticized the GOP for holding up critical ambassadorial nominations.

“You don’t like a candidate, vote against them,” Menendez said. “But this process of just holding and holding and holding, it makes no sense whatsoever.”

A spokesperson for the committee’s ranking Republican, Sen. Jim Risch, didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Jewish groups called the postponement inexcusable.

Greenblatt, of the ADL, condemned Johnson for playing partisan games just “because his feelings got hurt.”

“The ego of one person is not more important than confirming the highly-qualified Deborah Lipstadt as antisemitism envoy,” Greenblatt said in a statement posted on Twitter.

Halie Soifer, chief executive of the Jewish Democratic Council of American, described the move as dangerous. “His obstruction of her nomination endangers the security of Jews,” she said. “He can remain on the wrong side of history and choose to oppose Dr. Lipstadt, but she deserves — and the Jewish community expects — a vote.”

Tom Nelson, a Democratic candidate seeking his party’s nomination to challenge Johnson in the fall, said it was outrageous for the Republican incumbent to block the vote. “The fact that Ron Johnson apparently feels that his own political ideology is threatened by good-faith and bipartisan efforts to tackle the insidious and growing scourge of antisemitism is troubling on its face,” he said.

Jacob Kornbluh

Jacob Kornbluh is the Forward’s senior political reporter. Follow him on Twitter @jacobkornbluh or email [email protected].


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