WASSERMAN SCHULTZ, DEBBIE (1966– ), first Jewish congresswoman ever elected from Florida. Born and raised on Long Island, N.Y., she ran for student council each year and lost. She attended the University of Florida and graduated with a bachelor's degree in political science in 1988 and with a master's degree in 1990. At 26 she became the youngest woman ever elected to the State House. She served eight years in the House, two as minority leader, and then moved to the State Senate from 2000 to 2004. During her last year in the Florida Senate, Wasserman Schultz was among Democratic lawmakers who presented a plan for overhauling the state's education system, but it was ignored in the Republican-controlled Legislature.
She also was an outspoken opponent of a proposed state constitutional amendment that the legislature has put on the ballot to require parental notification before minor girls can obtain abortions. "History has shown that we have had terrible, terrible results when abortion wasn't safe and legal, and that's what we're going to be forcing here," she said.
She ran on a liberal platform that included promises to spend more on health care and education. "We live in the greatest country in the world," Wasserman Schultz said. "Yet we have sick children whose families cannot afford to take them to a doctor." She wants to extend health care for every child and young adult up to age 25, not just those from low-income families. She has been critical of Congress for failing to fully fund federal education programs.
She stepped up to a Congressional seat when Peter Deutsch, the incumbent Congressman, ran for an open Senate seat. She won the election without a primary opponent, a rarity for an open seat, and swamped her opponent in the general election from her heavily Democratic, heavily Jewish District.
Wasserman Schultz was appointed to the Financial Services Committee, the committee in the House of Representatives that oversees the entire financial services industry, including the securities, insurance, banking, and housing industries. The committee also oversees the work of the Federal Reserve, the Treasury, the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) and other financial services regulators. Most recently, Wasserman Schultz was appointed to the Committee on the Judiciary, with responsibility for the administration of justice in Federal courts, administrative bodies, and law enforcement agencies. It also handles issues relating to bankruptcy, espionage, terrorism, the protection of civil liberties, constitutional amendments, immigration and naturalization, claims against the United States, presidential succession, antitrust law, revision and codification of the statutes of the United States, state and territorial boundary lines, and patents, copyrights and trademarks. Particularly important in our time is the committee's oversight responsibility for the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security.
Wasserman Schultz has been a critic of the war in Iraq, saying it has diverted the United States from fighting terrorism and been too costly in lives and treasure. She also is committed to supporting Israel as "the lone democracy in the Middle East."
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.