Representative Nita Lowey

Representing the 17th District of New York

Lowey and Smith Lead Bipartisan Letter Urging Secretary Tillerson to Keep Anti-Semitism Special Envoy and Office

July 6, 2017
Press Release
Omnibus Spending Bill in April Directed Position Filled in Timely Manner

WASHINGTON— Today, Representatives Nita Lowey (D-NY), Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Committee and its subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations, and Chris Smith (R-NJ), along with 114 other Members of Congress, sent a bipartisan letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson inquiring whether he intends to comply with the Fiscal Year 2017 (FY17) Omnibus Appropriations Act, which directs the State Department to provide funds to support the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism and to appoint someone to this position in a timely manner.  The letter also urges the President to maintain staff in the Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism in accordance with the Global Anti-Semitism Review Act. 

The Members of Congress wrote in the letter, “State Department spokesperson Mark Toner stated on April 14 that the Administration will appoint a Special Envoy. We understand that filling the position of Special Envoy takes time and the final placement of the Office may wait until a State Department reorganization is complete. Nevertheless, these new reports about the lack of staff in the Office raise questions about whether the State Department will comply with the directives and instructions regarding the Special Envoy contained within the FY17 Omnibus.”

Lowey said, “I am very troubled that the Administration has yet to fill the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism. With recent reports that the Envoy’s Office will be unstaffed as of July 1st, I am worried the U.S. will lose ground in the fight against global anti-Semitism. While I have personally expressed my concerns to Secretary Tillerson, this letter is an important symbol to the Administration of the historical bipartisan support for the Special Envoy and Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism. I urge the Administration to appoint a Special Envoy in a timely manner and to maintain staff in the Envoy’s Office.”

Smith added, “Jewish communities here and abroad continue to be targets of hatred and deadly violence. America has a history of leading the fight against anti-Semitism—a history we must build upon.  As primary author of the 2004 amendment that created the Special Envoy I believe it is extremely important this is position continues to walk point in the fight against this terrible hate that is on the rise in the world. Seventy two years after the Holocaust ended, anti-Semites continue to target the Jewish people for discrimination, destruction of property and even death.”

Congress required the State Department to create the Special Envoy and the Office in the Global Anti-Semitism Review Act (Public Law 108-322), through provisions authored by Smith.  Under Public Law 108-322, the Special Envoy and the Office are to monitor and combat acts of anti-Semitism abroad, document these incidents in State Department reports, and consult with appropriate domestic and international nongovernmental and multilateral organizations.

Following reports that Secretary Tillerson did not intend to fill the Special Envoy position, Lowey ensured the FY17 Omnibus contained specific directives about the Special Envoy position. These directives included funding within State Department’s Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Office for the Special Envoy and instructions for the Secretary of State to fill the position in a timely manner.

Members who signed the letter include Representatives Nita M. Lowey, Christopher H. Smith, Eliot L. Engel, Edward R. Royce, Bradley S. Schneider, Leonard Lance, Jacky Rosen, Kay Granger, Joseph Crowley, Tim Murphy, Mark Pocan, Randy Hultgren, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Gus M. Bilirakis, Robin Kelly, Earl L. “Buddy” Carter, Don Beyer, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Gwen Moore, Brian Mast, Lois Frankel, Randy Weber, John Conyers, Jr., Brian K. Fitzpatrick, John Lewis, F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr., Adam Schiff, Peter T. King, Filemon Vela, Patrick Meehan, Nydia M. Velázquez, Daniel M. Donovan, Jr., Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan, Michael C. Burgess, M.D., Frank Pallone, Jr., Steve Chabot, David N. Cicilline, Michael T. McCaul, Dina Titus, David P. Joyce, Gregory Meeks, Bruce Poliquin, Alcee L. Hastings, Bill Johnson, Ted Lieu, Glenn Grothman, Kyrsten Sinema, Peter J. Roskam, Jamie Raskin, Jackie Walorski, Brenda Lawrence, David Schweikert, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Scott Taylor, Steve Cohen, David Kustoff, Josh Gotteimer, Jeff Duncan, Yvette D. Clarke, Francis Rooney, Rick Larsen, Dave Trott, Mike Doyle, Carlos Curbelo, Nanette Diaz Barragán, Barbara Comstock, Ami Bera, Ted Poe, Suzanne Bonamici, Brian Babin, Madeleine Z. Bordallo, Frank A. LoBiondo, Brendan F. Boyle, Robert A. Brady, Salud Carbajal, Matt Cartwright, Charlie Crist, Danny K. Davis, Suzan DelBene, Val B. Demings, Ted Deutch, Keith Ellison, Adriano Espaillat, Bill Foster, Gene Green, Marcy Kaptur, Ruben J. Kihuen, Sander Levin, Dan Lipinski, Zoe Lofgren, Alan Lowenthal, Michelle Lujan Grisham, Donald M. Payne, Jr., Sean Patrick Maloney, James P. McGovern, Grace Meng, Ro Khanna, Seth Moulton, Jerrold Nadler, Donald Norcross, Jimmy Panetta, Jared Polis, Mike Quigley, Kathleen M. Rice, Cedric Richmond, Tim Ryan, John Sarbanes, Jan Schakowsky, José E. Serrano, Brad Sherman, Thomas Suozzi, Norma J. Torres, Juan Vargas, John Yarmuth, A. Donald McEachin, Marc Veasey, and Hakeem Jeffries.

The full text of the letter follows:

 

June 30, 2017

The Honorable Rex Tillerson
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2301 C Street NW
Washington, D.C.

Dear Mr. Secretary,

As Members of Congress deeply concerned by the rise of global anti-Semitism, we are writing in response to reports that the Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism may be unstaffed as of July 1. Congress required the State Department to create the Office, headed by the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, in the Global Anti-Semitism Review Act (Public Law 108-332), through provisions authored by Rep. Chris Smith, a lead cosigner of this letter. The Act passed Congress in 2004 with broad bipartisan support. Earlier this year, 167 members of Congress from both parties sent a letter to President Trump, urging him to prioritize the appointment of Special Envoy after reports surfaced that the position may not be filled.

We now ask whether the State Department intends to comply with the Fiscal Year 2017 (FY17) Omnibus Appropriations Act and plans to fill the position of the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism in a timely manner. Further, we urge you to maintain staff in the Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, which is crucial to ensuring U.S. efforts against global anti-Semitism match the scale and severity of threats to Jewish communities on the ground.

Under Public Law 108-322, the Special Envoy and the Office are to monitor and combat acts of anti-Semitism abroad, document these incidents in State Department reports, and consult with appropriate domestic and international nongovernmental and multilateral organizations. A strong leader needs solid staff support – particularly true for a position such as the Special Envoy who is tasked with tracking anti-Semitism around the globe.

Under the leadership of Ranking Member Nita Lowey, a lead cosigner of this letter, the FY17 Omnibus instructed federal departments to comply with the directives, reporting requirements, and instructions contained in the FY17 House and Senate reports unless specifically directed to the contrary. Page 14 of the House Report 114-693 states:

“Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL).--The Committee recommendation includes the requested funds for human rights vetting. The recommendation also includes funds for support of the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism. The Committee remains concerned about the rise of anti-Semitism and the increase in anti-Semitic incidents around the world. The Committee supports efforts by the Department of State to emphasize Holocaust education.”

Because of the importance of this position and growing anti-Semitism abroad, the FY17 Omnibus included additional language regarding the Special Envoy on page 7 of its explanatory statement:

“The Secretary of State is directed to fill the position of Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism authorized by Public Law 108-332 in a timely manner.”

State Department spokesperson Mark Toner stated on April 14 that the Administration will appoint a Special Envoy. We understand that filling the position of Special Envoy takes time and the final placement of the Office may wait until a State Department reorganization is complete. Nevertheless, these new reports about the lack of staff in the Office raise questions about whether the State Department will comply with the directives and instructions regarding the Special Envoy contained within the FY17 Omnibus.

Thank you for your attention to these critical issues. We look forward to your response about whether the State Department intends to comply with the FY17 Omnibus and fill the position of Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism in a timely manner and fully implement Public Law 108-332 by maintaining staff in the Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism.

Respectfully,  

 

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