A delegation of Republican senators is moving forward with an effort to freeze some funding to the State Department until the U.S. embassy in Israel is formally moved to Jerusalem, according to new legislation.
The legislation comes as the Obama administration continues to face criticism over its behind-the-scenes effort to forward a United Nations resolution condemning Israel.
The Obama administration, like previous administrations, does not formally recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital city and has worked to stymie efforts to move the U.S. embassy there.
While Congress first approved legislation to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem in 1995, the new bill threatens to cut State Department funding until the relocation is complete.
The effort is being spearheaded by Sens. Ted Cruz (R., Texas), Marco Rubio (R., Fla.), and Dean Heller (R., Nev.), all of whom support efforts by the incoming Trump administration to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem after years of debate.
"Jerusalem is the eternal and undivided capital of Israel," Cruz said in a statement. "Unfortunately, the Obama administration's vendetta against the Jewish state has been so vicious that to even utter this simple truth—let alone the reality that Jerusalem is the appropriate venue for the American embassy in Israel—is shocking in some circles."
"But it is finally time to cut through the double-speak and broken promises and do what Congress said we should do in 1995: formally move our embassy to the capital of our great ally Israel," Cruz said.
The legislation orders the White House to identify Jerusalem as Israel's capital, which the Obama administration has refused to do. The bill will freeze a significant portion of the State Department's funding until it completes the relocation.
In the past, the Obama White House has been caught scrubbing captions on official photographs that labeled Jerusalem as part of Israel. The administration also was entangled in a Supreme Court case when it refused to permit an American family to list its child's birthplace as "Jerusalem, Israel."
Heller said the legislation could help repair America's relationship with Israel, which has become strained under the Obama administration.
"For years, I've advocated for America's need to reaffirm its support for one of our nation's strongest allies by recognizing Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel," Heller said in a statement. "It honors an important promise America made more than two decades ago but has yet to fulfill. While administrations come and go, the lasting strength of our partnership with one of our strongest allies in the Middle East continues to endure."
Rubio also championed the bill in a statement, saying it will finally close loopholes that have permitted the Obama administration to ignore congressional calls to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's official capital.
"Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Jewish state of Israel, and that's where America's embassy belongs," Rubio said. "It's time for Congress and the president-elect to eliminate the loophole that has allowed presidents in both parties to ignore U.S. law and delay our embassy's rightful relocation to Jerusalem for over two decades."