Today marks the third anniversary of one of former President Trump's most well-known foreign policy moves: the move of the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. On paper, the move had been mandated for more than twenty years, since the passage of the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995, but the act allowed Presidents to receive waivers from its mandate, which every President until Trump in 2018 took advantage of.
Although it was an initiative of the Republican Congress that came to power after the 1994 elections and became law without then-President Clinton's signature, the Jerusalem Embassy Act was popular with both parties and in all regions of the country. It passed the House by a vote of 374-37, with five members voting present, seventeen not voting, and two vacant districts. The map below shows how members voted by district and party designation:
(Apologies for the weird formatting. I recommend right-clicking and opening it in a new tab.)
Most of the opposition to the act was concentrated in a few areas:
- Appalachia. The act was opposed by representatives in a belt stretching from northeast Ohio and western Pennsylvania to southwestern Virginia. Notable opponents in this area include the maverick (to put it mildly) James Traficant (D-Ohio) and future prominent Iraq War critic Jack Murtha (D-Pa.).
- Metro Detroit. The Detroit metropolitan area has a large Arab and Muslim population, which is less sympathetic to Israel. Five "no" votes came from this area, four of them from Democrats (including well-known members John Dingell and John Conyers) and one from a Republican.
- Rural Pennsylvania and the Midwest. In the Midwest, traditionally more isolationist than the rest of the country, the act attracted some opposition. Outside Detroit and one "no" vote in Chicago, it came from rural areas and was bipartisan, with Republicans from rural Wisconsin, Iowa, and Nebraska opposed (in addition to the aforementioned "no" vote from the Detroit area and two "no" votes from Pennsylvania, these were the only Republican "no" votes), and Democrats from rural Minnesota, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Missouri.
- Minority Districts. Black and Hispanic members of Congress were more likely to oppose the act, with black representatives Eva Clayton (D-N.C.) and Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) two of the only four "no" votes in the South outside Virginia (the other two were Blue Dogs Gene Taylor (D-Miss.) and John Bryant (D-Texas)). Other notable minority "no" voters include Xavier Becerra, Maxine Waters, and Ron Dellums, all from California, and Donald Payne of New Jersey, the only "no" vote in the greater New York area. Minority members of the House were also more likely to simply skip the vote, including Cleo Fields of Louisiana, Charlie Rangel and Jose Serrano of New York, and Bobby Rush of Illinois.
- Liberal Enclaves. A few "no" votes and abstentions came from affluent liberal areas such as Vermont, northern Virginia, and parts of Massachusetts. Bernie Sanders, at the time the only independent in the House, voted against, while Barney Frank of Massachusetts voted present. In the West, the only "no" votes came from the Los Angeles and San Francisco metro areas, Hawaii, and Boulder, Colorado.
In the Senate, the measure passed by a similarly lopsided margin, 93-5, with Sen. Bill Bradley (D-N.J.) not voting and a vacancy in Oregon:
While most of the House opposition came from Democrats, most of the Senate opposition came from Republicans. Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), a former Majority Leader, was the only Democrat to oppose the act. Of the four Republicans to vote against the act, one was from Michigan (Spencer Abraham), and the other three (Mark Hatfield of Oregon, John Chafee of Rhode Island, and Jim Jeffords of Vermont) were from the now-defunct liberal wing of the GOP. Earlier this year, when an amendment to prevent the Biden administration from moving the embassy back to Tel Aviv came up in the Senate, it passed 97-3. This time, Republicans backed in unanimously, with only Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and Tom Carper (D-Del.) dissenting. Warren and Sanders, of course, are among the most prominent members of the Senate Democrats' left wing, but Carper has a more moderate reputation.
If the Jersalem Embassy Act were voted on today, it would probably be a more partisan vote, given that Evangelical influence in the GOP has grown while minorities and affluent liberals have become more important to the Democrats. Donald Trump's backing would probably be enough to get the rural Midwest and Appalachia on board. Conversely, the House delegations from Washington and Oregon probably would not back the move unanimously, like they did in 1995. It's unlikely that the pattern of much of the Midwest- some rural representatives balking while the representatives from the Twin Cities, Milwaukee, and St. Louis, among other cities, went along- would hold today.