This Week in History


President Obama picked Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz to lead Democratic National Committee

April 5, 2011
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz
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Debbie Wasserman Schultz represents Florida's 20th Congressional District. She has served in Congress since 2005.

On April 5, 2011, the Democratic Party announced that President Obama had named Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz as the incoming chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, making her the first woman DNC chief in 15 years and the third in history. Debbie Wasserman Schultz is the second Jewish woman to hold this post; Debra DeLee served as DNC chair from 1994-1995.

In an email to DNC members, Vice President Joe Biden wrote, “In selecting Debbie to lead our party, President Obama noted her tenacity, her strength, her fighting spirit and her ability to overcome adversity … President Obama expressed great admiration for her as a leader, and he was honored that she accepted this important challenge on behalf of the Democratic Party.”

A member of Congress since 2005, Debbie Wasserman Schultz represents Florida's 20th congressional district. As DNC chairwoman, Wasserman Schultz will lead the party’s fund-raising and organizational efforts during the 2012 election cycle.

Jewish women have long been active in the organization. When the Democratic National Committee convened on June 26, 1928, Belle Moskowitz was the sole woman on the Executive Committee. In 1968, Geri M. Joseph was elected vice-chair of the DNC and continued in that role for four years. Through the 1980s, Jane Harman played an important role in the DNC, acting as counsel for the 1984 platform committee and chairing the DNC’s National Lawyer’s Council. On February 4, 2002, Ann F. Lewis was appointed National Chair of the DNC’s Women's Vote Center.

Rep. Wasserman Schultz is an outspoken and articulate advocate for women’s access to healthcare. In February 2011, she was the first congressperson to speak out against the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act," which would make the Hyde Amendment (which prohibits  federal funding for abortion except in cases of rape, incest, or danger to the mother's health) permanent and place additional restrictions on legal abortion. In part because of Wasserman Schultz’s opposition, the GOP dropped the “forcible rape” language from the bill.

She is also known for her service to the Jewish community. In 2005, Rep. Wasserman Schultz joined Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania in sponsoring a resolution to designate a month to honor Jewish American culture and heritage. Thanks to her advocacy, May is now Jewish American Heritage Month.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz is also a breast cancer survivor and mother of three. A close friend of Rep.Gabrielle Giffords, Wasserman Schultz was often at her side through her recovery from a near-fatal shooting in January, 2011. 

See also: This Week in History for April 20, 2006, May designated Jewish American Heritage Month; Jewish Women in Politics.

On Jewesses with Attitude:
Mazel tov to the women of the Forward 50
Mazel Tov Debbie Wasserman Schultz, new chair of the DNC!
Jewish women and the Democratic National Committee
Debbie Wasserman Schultz stands up for women!
Rep. Wasserman Schultz on abortion: 'This is personal'
Rep. Allen West tells Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz to "act like a Lady"
Battling breast cancer on Capitol Hill
Update: Rep. Giffords opens her eyes, sees strong women friends and mentors
Jewish Women Politicians: Progressively Passionate?

Sources: Debbie Wasserman Schultz picked as Democratic National Committee chair,; Exclusive: Wasserman Schultz calls GOP abortion bill ‘a violent act against women’,; Wasserman Schultz: Tell Scott to ‘stop playing politics with women’s health’, The Florida Independent.


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