Waxman and Cohen Move Up: US Congress Jewish Update

By Benjamin Schuman-Stoler

In the aftermath of the election and an entirely new incoming administration, the Republican and Democratic parties have shuffled their rosters to prepare for the next Congress. As a result, some Jewish members have been promoted and now hold top positions.

This week, representatives Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Henry Waxman (D-Cal.) got significant promotions in their parties’ and Congress’ hierarchy.

On Wednesday, Rep. Cantor (see above video) was unanimously elected House minority whip by his fellow Republicans. The Jerusalem Post and Ha’aretz both had pieces about Cantor and the GOP’s post-election efforts this week. Ha’aretz had this quote:

“As a rising star in the Republican party and an outstanding legislator, Rep. Cantor is a source of tremendous pride for the Jewish community,” Republican Jewish Coalition official Matt Brooks said. “While the many challenges facing this country, and our party, are daunting, with Rep. Cantor taking on new leadership responsibilities as House minority whip, this is an occasion to be hopeful and to look towards the future.”

Also this week, Rep. Waxman beat out John Dingell (D-Mich.) for the chairmanship of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Rep. Waxman

Rep. Waxman

Check out the Houston Chronicle’s piece on Waxman’s history of firm opposition to big oil and how it might play into his committee leadership:

“We are at a unique moment in history,” said Waxman, who currently is the No. 2 Democrat on the panel. “We have an opportunity that comes only once in a generation…”

Waxman is widely expected to be more aggressive than his predecessor in pursuing legislation to curb greenhouse gas emissions—legislation that would affect refineries, petrochemical makers and power plants.

Also see the LA Times, which has a thorough timeline of Waxman’s career.

The first Jewish mover was Rahm Emanuel, who was selected as president-elect Barack Obama’s White House chief of staff. The newest info on him comes from ABC, who reports that Emanuel has reached out to Republicans recently:

“In these challenging times, economically, the middle class are working harder, earning less and paying more and the problems facing and the challenges facing the country require that people of both parties work together to solve those problems,” Emanuel said following a meeting with Senate Republicans.

“We would like to welcome their ideas on a host of fronts — be that in the area of education, health care, taxes, energy policy, national security. You know, give us those ideas as we are formulating what we’re going to do in the Obama administration,” he said.

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