New Congress to Have One Fewer Arab American, Three New Jewish Americans

By McArthur, Shirl | Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, January/February 2009 | Go to article overview

New Congress to Have One Fewer Arab American, Three New Jewish Americans


McArthur, Shirl, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs


THE 111TH Congress will include one fewer Arab American, since Rep. Ray LaHood (R-IL) is retiring. Reps. Charles Boustany (R-LA), Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Nick Rahall (D-WV) all were re-elected. The only Arab American in the Senate, Sen. John Sununu (R-NH), was defeated by Democrat Jeanne Shaheen, whom Sununu narrowly defeated in the 2002 election. The former New Hampshire governor is married to Lebanese-American attorney Bill Shaheen.

Jewish Americans gained three members in the new Congress, all in the House. They are Democrats John Adler (NJ), Alan Grayson (FL) and Jared Polis (CO). The House will include 31 Jewish members (7 percent), or 32 if the replacement for Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL), who will have to resign his House seat (see below), is also Jewish. The 28 re-elected House members (not including Emanuel) were Reps. Gary Ackerman (D-NY), Shelley Berkley (D-NV), Howard Berman (D-CA), Eric Cantor (R-VA), Stephen Cohen (D-TN), Susan Davis (D-CA), Eliot Engel (D-NY), Bob Filner (D-CA), Barney Frank (D-MA), Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), Jane Harman (D-CA), Paul Hodes (D-NH), Steve Israel (D-NY), Steve Kagen (D-WI), Ron Klein (D-FL), Sander Levin (D-MI), Nita Lowey (D-NY), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Steve Rothman (D-NJ), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Adam Schiff (D-CA), Allyson Schwartz (D-PA), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Henry Waxman (D-CA), Anthony Weiner (D-NY), Robert Wexler (D-FL) and John Yarmouth (D-KY).

The number of Jewish senators will remain at 13 (or 13 percent, compared to the 2 percent of Americans who are Jewish). Although the race in Minnesota is undecided, both candidates, Republican Sen. Norm Coleman and Democratic challenger Al Franken, are Jewish. Two Jewish Democrats, Sens. Frank Lautenberg (NJ) and Carl Levin (MI)-the latter the all-time Senate leader in pro-Israel PAC contributions-were re-elected. The remaining 10 Jewish senators, Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), Russ Feingold (D-WI), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Herb Kohl (D-WI), Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Bernard Sanders (I-VT), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Arlen Specter (R-PA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR), were not up for re-election in 2008. The two Independents, Lieberman and Sanders, will caucus with the Democrats.

New "Pro-Israel, Pro-Peace" Group Shows Some Clout

As described in the article "Pro-Israel PACs: Disguises and Permutations" (August 2008 Washington Report, p. 26), last April a group consisting mostly of prominent American Jews formed a new lobbying group and PAC to counter the pro-Likud positions of AIPAC and other Jewish groups that, in the view of the organization's founders, do not reflect the more moderate views of the majority of American Jews. The group, known as J Street, with its associated JStreetPAC, (quoting from its Web site, ), claims that it "represents Americans, primarily but not exclusively Jewish, who support Israel and its desire for security as the Jewish homeland, as well as the right of the Palestinians to a sovereign state of their own-two states living side by side in peace and security. We believe ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is in the best interests of Israel, the United States, the Palestinians, and the region as a whole." The group "supports diplomatic solutions over military ones, including in Iran."

In the 2008 congressional elections, JStreetPAC raised over $565,000 to 41 House and Senate candidates, of which 32 won their races, with two races still too close to call as of the end of November, and J Street expects them to "provide a strong voice in Congress advocating peace and diplomacy in the Middle East." The Jewish publication Forward reported that some candidates were warned that if they accepted JStreetPAC's contributions they would lose the support of other, more hawkish, Jewish PACs. The winning JStreetPAC-supported candidates included mostly Democrats, but also Arab-American Republican Boustany. Eight of J Street's winning candidates will be newcomers to Congress, including Senator-elect Jeff Merkley (D-OR), who defeated "Hall of Shame" member Sen.

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New Congress to Have One Fewer Arab American, Three New Jewish Americans
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