Debbie Wasserman Schultz

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Debbie Wasserman Schultz (born September 27, 1966) is a Florida Democrat elected to the United States House of Representatives in 2004, representing Florida's 20th congressional district. The district includes portions of Broward and Miami-Dade counties. She was born in Queens, New York and grew up on Long Island. She currently lives in Weston just outside Fort Lauderdale. She is a mother of three and is married to Steve Schultz. Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz initially endorsed Sen. Hillary Clinton for president but later endorsed Senator Obama after he became the presumptive democratic nominee.

Contents [hide] 1 Early life and education 2 Florida politics 3 U.S. Congress 3.1 Committee Assignments 4 Campaign 2008 5 Terri Schiavo Controversy 6 Position on the Middle East Crisis 7 Position on Presidential signing statements 8 Jewish American Heritage Month 9 References 10 External links

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Contents

Early Life & Education ==

Wasserman Schultz grew up in Long Island in New York, where she ran for student council every year and always lost.[1] She attended the University of Florida in Gainesville, where she received her Bachelor of Arts degree in 1988 and her Master of Arts degree in 1990 (with the Certificate in Political Campaigning)[2], both in political science.[3]

At UF, Wasserman Schultz was active in student government; she served as President of the Student Senate and the founder and president of the Rawlings Area Government.[4] Wasserman Schultz also was a member of the Omicron Delta Kappa honor society and the National Residence Hall Honorary. As a graduate student she was a member of the union Graduate Assistants United and the President of the Graduate Student Council.[5] She had credited her experience in student politics with developing her "love for politics and the political process."[6]

Wasserman Schultz later became a program administrator and an instructor at a Florida college.

Florida politics

In 1988 while commuting to Gainesville to get her master's degree, she became an aide to Peter Deutsch at the beginning of his state legislative career.[3][7] She eventually became his chief of staff and continued to assist him when he was a member of Florida's State House of Representatives.[7] She is considered closely aligned to Deutsch's ideology. Wasserman Schultz is pro-choice, pro-gun control and pro-gay rights.

In 1992 Deutsch gave up his state house seat to make a successful run for United States House of Representatives from Florida's 20th District. Wasserman Schultz recalled getting a call from Deutsch at the time, "It was really amazing. He called me at home one day in the middle of the legislative session and he said, You could run in my race, your house is in my district."[7] Though only having lived in the district for three years, Wasserman Schultz won 53 percent of the vote in a six-way Democratic primary that year, and avoided a runoff.[7] She went on to win the general election and succeeded Deutsch in Florida's House of Representatives. At the age of 26 she became the youngest female legislator in the state's history.[3] She served in the Florida State House of Representatives for eight years, and had to leave office due to state term limits.[3] With her experience in the Florida House, she ran for the Florida State Senate in 2000 and was again victorious. During her tenure in Florida's state legislature, she was considered one of the most liberal representatives in the state. She fought for legislation protecting women, seniors, and children, including legislation requiring gender price parity for dry cleaning and ensuring an equal number of men and women were appointed to state boards. She pushed through several bills including the Florida Residential Swimming Pool Safety Act and one creating a Children's Services Council for Broward County.


U.S. Congress

Wasserman Schultz is an active member of the National Jewish Democratic Council, Planned Parenthood and Hadassah. She received an award from the Save The Manatee Club for commitment to manatee protection as state senator.

In 2004, Deutsch gave up his Congressional seat to make an unsuccessful run for the Senate seat of fellow Democrat Bob Graham. He endorsed Schultz as his successor. She was unopposed in the Democratic primary.

Her Republican opponent was Margaret Hostetter, a realtor who had never held public office. The 20th is so heavily Democratic that Hostetter faced nearly impossible odds in November. However, she gained notoriety for her attacks on Wasserman Schultz. For example, Hostetter's campaign site criticized Wasserman Schultz for protesting an American flag photograph with a Christian cross on it that was on display in the workstation of a secretary in a government building. Hostetter wrote, "Elect Margaret Hostetter to Congress November 2 and send the clear message that Americans respect and support ... the foundational role Christianity has had in the formation of our great nation. Our rights come from God, not the state."

After spending approximately $1.2 million dollars, Wasserman Schultz won with 70.2% to Hostetter's 29.8%. However, Hostetter had only spent about $30,000 to get 30% of the vote. When Wasserman Schultz was sworn in on January 4, 2005, she chose to use the Jewish Bible, the Tanakh. Because Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert only had a Christian Bible, a copy of the Tanakh was borrowed by Hastert's staff from Congressman Gary Ackerman for this purpose.[8] (This fact was brought up two years later during the Qur'an oath controversy of the 110th United States Congress.[9])

She was unopposed for reelection in 2006, and faces no major-party opposition in 2008; given this district's heavy Democratic tilt it is not likely he will face substantive Republican opposition in the forseable future.

Wasserman Schultz was appointed to the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee in her first term. During the 2006 elections, she raised over seventeen million dollars in campaign contributions for her Democratic colleagues (third most after Nancy Pelosi and Rahm Emanuel), she was chosen as Chief Deputy Whip and appointed to the powerful Appropriations Committee, a plum assignment for a sophomore congresswoman. She currently chairs the Committee's Legislative Branch subcommittee, which Pelosi returned to the Committee after it was dissolved by Republican leadership in 2005. Shortly after acquiring her spot on the Appropriations Committee, Wasserman Schultz received the waiver necessary to sit on an additional committee (Appropriations is typically an exclusive committee), and she is currently a member of the Judiciary Committee. In addition to her committee and leadership roles, she is a member of Speaker Nancy Pelosi's "30 Something" Working Group, which consists of congressional Democrats under age 40. The group concentrates on issues affecting young people, including Social Security. She also has joined the bipartisan Congressional Cuba Democracy Caucus.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz is a member of the New Democrat Coalition.


Committee Assignments

Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee on Legislative Branch (Chair) Committee on the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties Antitrust Task Force and Competition Policy Chief Deputy Whip


Campaign 2008

Wasserman Schultz announced her support of Hillary Clinton for President in the 2008 election, and in June 2007 was named one of Clinton's national campaign co-chairs. She is now a supporter of Barack Obama.

Wasserman Schultz was also named a co-chair of the Democratic Party's Red to Blue congressional campaign group.[10] Controversy arose in March 2008 when she announced that she would be unable to campaign against South Florida Republican representatives Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen because of her good friendship with them.[11]


Terri Schiavo Controversy

During the Terri Schiavo controversy, she was one of the strongest opponents of congressional intervention. She publicly accused President Bush of hypocrisy for signing a 1999 bill as governor of Texas that allows health care workers to remove life support for terminally ill patients if the patient or family is unable to pay the medical bills. During the debate Wasserman Schultz pointed out that a Texas law signed into law by then Gov. George W. Bush allowed caregivers to withhold treatment "at the point that futility has been reached and there is no longer any hope of survival or of additional health care measures being used to sustain life. …[this] seems to conflict with his position today." Cox News service reported that “The Texas law was intended to control in cases in which medical teams and patients' representatives disagree on treatment. In the Schiavo case, the medical team and Schiavo's husband agreed that there was no hope of improvement in her condition, determined by lower courts to be a ‘persistent vegetative state.’”[12] Wasserman Schultz also cited the case of a six-month old Texas baby whose life support had been removed in accord with this law and over the objections of his family while the Schiavo controversy was ongoing. In an editorial, the Miami Herald wrote: "During three hours of debate ... the freshman Democrat distinguished herself by repeatedly challenging those who tried to misstate the facts surrounding Schiavo's health."

After the controversy Wasserman Schultz issued a statement that said, “The Congress is not an objective body. It is a partisan, political body. Our Members are not doctors or bioethicists. We are elected officials. The Congress is not the appropriate venue to decide end-of-life or any private, personal family dispute. That is why there are court reviews which allow for an objective evaluation of both sides of a dispute. The Congress was never designed for, and our Founding Fathers never intended, the body to make these kinds of decisions. What was lost in the midst of this debate was that this was not about pro-life interest groups, or about the parents or the husband. It wasn’t about the President, or the Governor, or the Republican or Democratic party. It was about a personal family tragedy. I am worried about the direction our country is moving in. I am worried when members of Congress and the President try to overstep over twenty court rulings on a case that had gone on for years. I am worried when special interest groups exploit a family tragedy for political and financial gain. I am worried when the federal government attempts to step between a husband and a wife because members of Congress believe they know better.”[13]

Position on the Middle East Crisis

While her predecessor and mentor Peter Deutsch was “among the most hawkish congressional Democrats on Middle East issues”.[3] Wasserman Schultz, who took over his seat for Florida’s 20th district, “a heavily Jewish swath of Broward County”, has taken a more centrist approach.[3] During 2005 she spoke in approval of President George W. Bush’s proposals to give financial aid to the Palestinian Authority in both the proposed supplemental and in the 2006 budgets. She said “We want to continue to focus on making sure that… the policy coming from Washington continues to encourage and support and nurture the peace process. In [Bush’s] first four years, there was a lack of leadership coming from the administration. I know many people in the Jewish community were happy with the president’s position on Israel, but the way I thought, there was an absence of leadership.… So I’m glad to see there’s a little more engagement and involvement from the administration.”[3]

She defended her party against suggestions that the Democrats are anti-Israel, saying “I would stack up the Democratic caucus’s position on the support for Israel against the Republican caucus’s any day of the week and be much more confident — and the Jewish community should be much more confident — in the Democrats’ stewardship of Israel than the Republicans, especially if you compare the underlying reasons for both groups’ support for Israel. The very far right group of Republicans’ interest in Israel is not because they are so supportive of there being a Jewish state and making sure that Jews have a place that we can call home. It has references to Armageddon and biblical references that are more their interest. So I would encourage members of the Jewish community to put their faith in Democrats, because our support for Israel is generally for the right reasons.”[3]


Position on Presidential signing statements

Supports the use of appropriations for future control of Presidential signing statements as developed as part of questions during the House Judiciary Committee hearing on the constitutional limits of executive power 26 July 2008.[14]


Jewish American Heritage Month

Wasserman Schultz and Senator Arlen Specter were the driving forces behind the resolution that declared every May “Jewish American Heritage Month.” The annual observance was created to recognize “the accomplishments of American Jews and the important role that members of the Jewish community have played in the development of American culture.”[15] The observance is modeled after Black History Month, Hispanic Heritage Month and Women's History Month. Wasserman Schultz envisioned "classroom instruction, public ceremonies and broadcast announcements."[16] Wasserman Schultz stated "There's a generation of children growing up with a fading memory of what happened during World War II or even an understanding of anyone who is Jewish or their culture and traditions. Through education comes tolerance."[16] The bill introducing the observance passed unanimously in both the House and the Senate and signed by President George W. Bush. Wasserman Schultz said of the proclamation “This is an historic occasion. Generations to come will have the chance to live without anti-Semitism through greater understanding and awareness of the significant role that American Jews have played in U.S. history. Jewish American Heritage Month is a reality because of the people gathered today in this room.”[15]

The measure was criticized by Gary Cass, executive director of the Center for Reclaiming America, a national Christian organization based in Fort Lauderdale. Cass objected to "teaching Jewish history without talk of religious practices and values," saying "We cannot seem to have an honest discussion about the Christian roots of America." He also wondered "How much tolerance would [Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz] have for a Christian Heritage month?"[16] Wasserman Schultz believed the situation was different, saying "Judaism is unique, because it is both a culture and a religion", and that "she would not support teaching any religion in public schools."[16]

Her father Larry Wasserman said that while Wasserman Schultz had not been particularly active in the Jewish community before entering politics, she has “forged ties with Jewish groups as a lawmaker. She helped to form the National Jewish Democratic Council and served on the regional board of the American Jewish Congress.”[7]

She has recently been active in supporting health care reform legislation.



References

^ "Florida: Twentieth District: Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D)." Almanac of American Politics. National Journal 22 June 2005. [1] ^ "Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz." Florida House of Representatives. [2] ^ a b c d e f g h E.J. Kessler (Fri. Mar 04, 2005). "Florida Democrat Blazing Her Own Trail on Capitol Hill", The Jewish Forward. Retrieved on Jan. 7, 2007 ^ "Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz," Florida House of Representatives. ^ "Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz," Florida House of Representatives. ^ Schultz, Debbie Wasserman. "Speech to Harvard Model Congress: Youth Participation In Politics." 4 Mar. 2006. ^ a b c d e "Election to House caps fast ascent for Florida woman seen as rising star", JTA (2004-11-08). Retrieved on Jan. 9, 2007 ^ "Ackerman saves the day", The Hill (2006-01-05). Third story on page Retrieved on Dec. 4, 2006 ^ "Use of Koran in oath splits conservatives", Baptist Press (2007-01-09). Retrieved on Feb. 28, 2007 ^ Wayne S. Smith (March 19, 2008). "Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz allegiance in question", South Florida Sun Sentinel. Retrieved on March 20, 2008 ^ Template error: argument title is required. Retrieved on March 19, 2008 ^ Ken Herman (Tuesday, March 22, 2005). "In Texas, Bush sided with spouses in cases like this", Cox News Service. Retrieved on Jan. 9, 2007 ^ Debbie Wasserman Schultz (2005-05-01). "The Lessons Learned From Terri Schiavo". US House of Representatives. Retrieved on Jan. 8, 2007 ^ "Hearing on Limits of Executive Power: Debbie W. Schultz" (2008-07-26). Retrieved on July. 29, 2008 ^ a b "Jewish American Heritage Month Proclaimed as May" (2006-04-25). Retrieved on Jan. 7, 2007 ^ a b c d Beth Reinhard (December 16, 2005 Friday). "Jewish History Month proposal up to president", Miami Herald. Retrieved on Jan. 8, 2007

[edit] External links Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz official U.S. House site Debbie Wasserman Schultz for Congress official campaign website Biography at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress Voting record maintained by The Washington Post Campaign finance reports and data at the Federal Election Commission Campaign contributions at OpenSecrets.org Biography, voting record, and interest group ratings at Project Vote Smart Issue positions and quotes at On The Issues Profile at SourceWatch Congresspedia Follow the Money — Debbie Wasserman Schultz 2000 Florida Senate campaign contributions 1998 Florida House campaign contributions

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