Deborah “Debbie” Wasserman Schultz (born September 27, 1966) is an American politician. She is the U.S. Representative for Florida’s 23rd congressional district, a member of the Democratic Party and the Chair of the Democratic National Committee. She previously served in the Florida House of Representatives and the Florida Senate. She is the first Jewish Congresswoman ever elected from Florida.
The district covers parts of Broward and Miami-Dade Counties, including the densely-populated coastal cities of Fort Lauderdale and Miami Beach.
Wasserman Schultz is pro-choice, pro–gun control and pro–gay rights. She was strongly critical of the Stupak–Pitts Amendment, which places limits on taxpayer-funded abortions in the context of the November 2009 Affordable Health Care for America Act.
Wasserman Schultz initiated the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool And Spa Safety Act.In 2011, Rep. Wesserman Schultz became a co-sponsor of Bill H.R.3261 otherwise known as the Stop Online Piracy Act.
Terri Schiavo case
During the Terri Schiavo case, she was one of the strongest opponents of congressional intervention. She publicly accused President George W. 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’.” 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.
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.”
Middle East crisis
While her predecessor and mentor Peter Deutsch was “among the most hawkish congressional Democrats on Middle East issues”, 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. 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.”
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.”
Presidential signing statements
Wasserman Schultz 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.
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”. 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”. 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.” 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.”
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?” 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”.
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.”
2008 financial crisis
Wasserman Schultz voted on September 29, 2008 for the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 and on October 3, 2008 for the revised version of that act.
During an April 2009 House Judiciary Committee hearing on the Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009, fellow Floridian Tom Rooney, a former active duty U.S. Army JAG Corps officer, introduced an amendment that would make attacks against military veterans a hate crime. Wasserman Schultz remarked on the amendment:
I’m from a state, as Mr. Rooney is, that includes and represents the districts that include real victims. I represent a very large—one of the largest gay populations in the United States of America. One of the largest Jewish populations in the United States of America. My region—our region has a very large African-American population. It really is belittling of the respect that we should have for these groups to suggest that members of the armed services have somehow systematically been the victims of hate crimes.