Sen. Mike Lee (R., Utah) has placed a hold on legislation meant to expand Holocaust education programs, angering supporters in the pro-Israel community who say the bill was on track to be approved before hitting this roadblock.
The legislation, which was set for approval amid commemorations of May's Jewish American Heritage Month, would improve and help develop Holocaust education initiatives across the country. The bill was approved overwhelmingly by the House with just five dissenters and forwarded by the relevant Senate committees on Thursday, paving the way for a full vote.
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However, Lee placed a hold on the bill, meaning that it cannot move forward until the senator's concerns with it are addressed. All senators can place a procedural hold on a bill to block it from moving forward.
Pro-Israel American groups have been championing the Holocaust legislation from the outset, particularly in light of a sizable jump in anti-Semitic attitudes within the United States and Israel. The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated the situation, as anti-Semitic activists promote claims that Israel and Jews were behind developing the virus. The pro-Israel groups maintain the bill would help educate Americans about the Nazi regime's atrocities and help stem the spread of anti-Semitic tropes.
Lee's office confirmed the senator's hold, saying he is seeking "some really minor changes to some of the wording" and is working with Sen. Kevin Cramer (R., N.D.), a chief sponsor of the bill, to address these concerns. Lee's office would not detail what specifically the senator objects to in the legislation or for how long the hold could last.
Cramer's office told the Washington Free Beacon, "We have no comment on this, will let you know when we have updates."
Officials in the pro-Israel community expressed concern over Lee's move, telling the Free Beacon the bill had initially been fast tracked for approval given its broad bipartisan support. They worry his hold could delay the bill's passage and endanger the timely development of Holocaust education programs.
"Sen. Lee is holding up a common sense bill with overwhelming bipartisan support. Anti-Semitism is raging while Sen. Lee fiddles," said a senior official with a pro-Israel organization, speaking only on background so as not to endanger the group's relationship with Lee. "If the senator lacks the fortitude to disclose his issue with this straightforward legislation, then he should cease his serial obstructionism and let Congress do its job."
Update 11:22 a.m.: This post has been updated with comment from Cramer's office.