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Debbie Wasserman Schultz

Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Florida's 20th district
Assumed office 
January 3, 2005
Preceded by Peter Deutsch

Assumed office 
Serving with Donna Brazile, Linda Chavez-Thompson, Mike Honda
Leader DNC Chairman Tim Kaine

In office
1992 – 2000

Born September 27, 1966 (1966-09-27) (age 43)
Long Island, New York
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Steve Schultz
Relations (father) Larry Wasserman, CPA
Ann Wasserman
Children Shelby
twins, Jake and Rebecca (c:a 2000)
Residence Weston, Florida
Alma mater University of Florida
Occupation college administrator, political assistant
Religion Jewish

Debbie Wasserman Schultz (born September 27, 1966) is a Florida Democrat elected to the United States House of Representatives in 2004, representing Florida's 20th congressional district. The district includes portions of Broward and Miami-Dade counties. She was born in Forest Hills, Queens in New York City and grew up on Long Island. She currently lives in Weston outside Fort Lauderdale. She is a mother of three and is married to Steve Schultz. She endorsed Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton for her party's 2008 presidential nomination. Once Senator Barack Obama became the presumptive Democratic nominee, she endorsed him and seconded his nomination at the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

Wasserman Schultz is pro-choice, pro-gun control and pro-gay rights, and an active member of the National Jewish Democratic Council, Planned Parenthood and Hadassah.


Early life and education

Wasserman Schultz grew up on Long Island in New York. She attended the University of Florida in Gainesville, where she received her Bachelor of Arts degree in 1988 and her Master of Arts degree in 1990 (with the Certificate in Political Campaigning)[3], both in political science.[4]

At UF, Wasserman Schultz was active in student government; she served as President of the Student Senate and the founder and president of the Rawlings Area Council Government.[5] Wasserman Schultz also was a member of the Omicron Delta Kappa honor society and the National Residence Hall Honorary. As a graduate student she was a member of the union Graduate Assistants United and the President of the Graduate Student Council.[5] She had credited her experience in student politics with developing her "love for politics and the political process."[6]

Wasserman Schultz later became a program administrator and an instructor at a Florida college.

Florida politics

In 1988, while commuting to Gainesville to get her master's degree, she became an aide to Peter Deutsch at the beginning of his state legislative career.[4][7]

In 1992 Deutsch gave up his state house seat to make a successful run for United States House of Representatives from Florida's 20th District. Wasserman Schultz recalled getting a call from Deutsch at the time, "It was really amazing. He called me at home one day in the middle of the legislative session and he said, You could run in my race, your house is in my district."[7] Though having lived in the district for only three years, Wasserman Schultz won 53 percent of the vote in a six-way Democratic primary that year, and avoided a runoff.[7] She went on to win the general election and succeeded Deutsch in Florida's House of Representatives. At the age of 26 she became the youngest female legislator in the state's history.[4][8] She served in the Florida State House of Representatives for eight years, and had to leave office due to state term limits.[4] With her experience in the Florida House, she ran for the Florida State Senate in 2000 and was again victorious. During her tenure in Florida's state legislature, she was considered one of the most liberal representatives in the state. She fought for legislation protecting women, seniors, and children, including legislation requiring gender price parity for dry cleaning and ensuring an equal number of men and women were appointed to state boards. She pushed through several bills including the Florida Residential Swimming Pool Safety Act and one creating a Children's Services Council for Broward County. She received an award from the Save The Manatee Club for her commitment to manatee protection as state senator.

U.S. Congress

In 2004, Wasserman Schultz's mentor, Deutsch, gave up his Congressional seat to make an unsuccessful run for the Senate seat of fellow Democrat Bob Graham. Wasserman Schultz was unopposed in the Democratic primary election held to fill Deutsch's seat.

Her Republican opponent was Margaret Hostetter, a realtor who had never held public office. The 20th is so heavily Democratic that Hostetter faced nearly impossible odds in November. However, she gained notoriety for her attacks on Wasserman Schultz. For example, Hostetter's campaign site criticized Wasserman Schultz for protesting an American flag photograph with a Christian cross on it that was on display in the workstation of a secretary in a government building. Hostetter wrote, "Elect Margaret Hostetter to Congress November 2 and send the clear message that Americans respect and support... the foundational role Christianity has had in the formation of our great nation. Our rights come from God, not the state."

As expected, Wasserman Schultz won handily, taking 70.2% to Hostetter's 29.8%. However, Hostetter had only spent about $30,000 to get 30% of the vote (compared to Wasserman Schultz's $1.2 million). When Wasserman Schultz was sworn in on January 4, 2005, she chose to use the Tanakh. Because Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert only had a Christian Bible, a copy of the Tanakh was borrowed by Hastert's staff from Congressman Gary Ackerman for this purpose.[9] (This fact was brought up two years later during the Qur'an oath controversy of the 110th United States Congress.[10])

She was unopposed for reelection in 2006. Hostetter ran against her again in 2008, this time as an independent. Wasserman Schultz again beat Hostetter, defeating her this time by 77%.

Wasserman Schultz was appointed to the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee in her first term. During the 2006 elections, she raised over seventeen million dollars in campaign contributions for her Democratic colleagues (third most after Nancy Pelosi and Rahm Emanuel), she was chosen as Chief Deputy Whip and appointed to the powerful Appropriations Committee, a plum assignment for a sophomore congresswoman. She currently chairs the Committee's Legislative Branch subcommittee, which Pelosi returned to the Committee after it was dissolved by Republican leadership in 2005. Shortly after acquiring her spot on the Appropriations Committee, Wasserman Schultz received the waiver necessary to sit on an additional committee (Appropriations is typically an exclusive committee), and she is currently a member of the Judiciary Committee. In addition to her committee and leadership roles, she is a member of Speaker Nancy Pelosi's "30 Something" Working Group, which consists of congressional Democrats under age 40. The group concentrates on issues affecting young people, including Social Security. She also has joined the bipartisan Congressional Cuba Democracy Caucus.

Although only in her third term, Wasserman Schultz was ranked, according to the 2008 Power Rankings, as 24th most powerful member of the House and 22nd most powerful Democratic representative (also most powerful Florida representative)[11]. Debbie Wasserman Schultz is also a member of the New Democrat Coalition.

She initiated the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool And Spa Safety Act.

Wasserman Schultz 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. =


Committee assignments

Party leadership

2008 campaign

Wasserman Schultz announced her support of Hillary Clinton for President in the 2008 election, and in June 2007 was named one of Clinton's national campaign co-chairs. At the 2008 Democratic National Convention, she joined Senator Ken Salazar of Colorado and Representative Artur Davis of Alabama to second Obama's nomination

On CBS's Face the Nation, she declared Sarah Palin to be unready for the Vice Presidency. “She knows nothing.... Quite honestly, the interview I saw and that Americans saw on Thursday and Friday was similar to when I didn’t read a book in high school and had to read the Cliff’s Notes and phone in my report,” Wasserman Schultz said of Palin’s interview with ABC’s Charlie Gibson last week. “She’s Cliff-noted her performance so far.” [ 9/14/08] Wasserman Schultz was also named a co-chair of the Democratic Party's Red to Blue congressional campaign group.[12] Controversy arose in March 2008 when she announced that she would be unable to campaign against South Florida Republican representatives Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen because of her good friendship with them.[13]

Breast cancer

In March 2009, she revealed that she underwent seven surgeries related to breast cancer in 2008, while maintaining her responsibilities as a member of the House.

The congresswoman in 2009 increased efforts to promote early screening for breast cancer, after she revealed her own battle with the disease in 2008. She maintained an aggressive schedule campaigning during recovery from seven operations.[2]

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.’”[14] 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. In an editorial, the Miami Herald wrote: "During three hours of debate ... the freshman Democrat distinguished herself by repeatedly challenging those who tried to misstate the facts surrounding Schiavo's health."[15]

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.”[16]

Position on the Middle East Crisis

While her predecessor and mentor Peter Deutsch was “among the most hawkish congressional Democrats on Middle East issues”.[4] 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.[4] 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.”[4]

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.”[4]

Position on 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. [17]

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.”[18] 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."[19] 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."[19] 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.”[18]

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?"[19] 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."[19]

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.”[7]

She has recently been active in supporting health care reform legislation.

Position on 2008 bailout

On September 29, 2008, Wasserman Schultz voted for the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008[20]

On October 3, 2008, Wasserman Schultz voted for the revised version of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008[21]

Position on hate crimes

During an April, 2009 House Judiciary Committee hearing on the Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009, fellow Floridian Tom Rooney, a retired 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."[22]

Position on Haiti

After returning from a trip to Haiti, the congresswoman made this declaration "If Haiti isn't able to get their political act together, then it's sort of gotta get out of its own way before others around the world will be able to help them."


  • Giraffe award, Women's Advocacy Majority Minority (WAMM), 1993
  • Outstanding Family Advocacy award, Dade County Psychol. Assn., 1993
  • Rosemary Barkett award, Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers, 1995
  • Woman of the Year, AMIT, 1994
  • Outstanding Legislator of the year, Florida Federation of Business & Professional Women, 1994
  • Quality Floridian, Florida League of Cities, 1994
  • Woman of Vision, Weizmann Institute of Science
  • one of Six Most Unstoppable Women, South Florida Magazine, 1994.



  1. ^ "Debbie Wasserman Schultz." Carroll's State Directory. Carroll Publishing, 2006. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Michigan: Gale, 2009. Document Number: K2416014764.( Fee via Fairfax County Public Library, accessed 2009-04-25.
  2. ^ a b Doup, Liz (April 5, 2009). "Debbie Wasserman Schultz shows steely resolve in grueling cancer battle. A hectic workload. A young family. And seven cancer surgeries. But Wasserman Schultz keeps going.". South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Florida: Forum Publishing Group).,0,2806724.story. Retrieved 2009-04-25. "For two weeks, she's hit the stump, talking about her breast cancer battle.The seven surgeries, including a double mastectomy. The nearly nonstop work load. And how she kept it quiet from her children — and constituents and colleagues, telling only about a dozen people, including family and staff....
    "I remember how she was only half out of anesthesia and she was on the BlackBerry," says her brother, Steve Wasserman, an assistant U.S. Attorney in Washington, who was with her during the mastectomy. Nine days after that surgery in February 2008, she hosted a fundraiser for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, while getting pain medication from a pump hidden in her purse. "I didn't talk about it — I didn't want to talk about it," she says, referring to the cancer. After a doctor removed the lump in her right breast, tests showed a genetic mutation putting her at high risk for a recurrence of breast or ovarian cancer. She didn't hesitate. Her breasts and ovaries had to go. And, yes, she mourned her breasts."
  3. ^ "Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz." Florida House of Representatives
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h E.J. Kessler (March 4, 2005). "Florida Democrat Blazing Her Own Trail on Capitol Hill". The Jewish Forward.   Retrieved on Jan. 7, 2007
  5. ^ a b "Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz," Florida House of Representatives.
  6. ^ Schultz, Debbie Wasserman. "Speech to Harvard Model Congress: Youth Participation In Politics." 4 Mar. 2006.
  7. ^ a b c d "Election to House caps fast ascent for Florida woman seen as rising star". JTA. 2004-11-08.   Retrieved on Jan. 9, 2007
  8. ^ "Debbie Wasserman Schultz." Carroll's Federal Directory. Carroll Publishing, 2009. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Michigan: Gale, 2009. Document Number: K2415004095. ( Fee via Fairfax County Public Library, accessed 2009-04-25.
  9. ^ "Ackerman saves the day". The Hill. 2006-01-05.   Third story on page Retrieved on Jul. 24, 2009
  10. ^ "Use of Koran in oath splits conservatives". Baptist Press. 2007-01-09.   Retrieved on Feb. 28, 2007
  11. ^ " - Power Rankings 2008". Retrieved 2009-04-25.  
  12. ^ Wayne S. Smith (March 19, 2008). "Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz allegiance in question". South Florida Sun Sentinel.,0,3730308.story. Retrieved March 20, 2008.  
  13. ^ Lesley Clark, "Democrats torn between party, GOP friends", Miami Herald, March 8, 2008.
  14. ^ Ken Herman (March 22, 2005). "In Texas, Bush sided with spouses in cases like this". Cox News Service.   Retrieved on Jan. 9, 2007
  15. ^ "TWO DEMOCRATS SHOW TRUE GRIT IN SCHIAVO CASE" (Fee). Miami Herald. March 22, 2005.,%27TWO+DEMOCRATS+SHOW+TRUE+GRIT+IN+SCHIAVO+CASE%27,%271%27,%27Miami+Herald%2C+The+%28FL%29%27,%27MH%27,%27MH%27,%27%27,%27%27,%27MH%27);%20return%20false;%27%3E&ext_hed=TWO%20DEMOCRATS%20SHOW%20TRUE%20GRIT%20IN%20SCHIAVO%20CASE&s_site=miamii&ext_theme=realcities2&pubcode=MH.  
  16. ^ Debbie Wasserman Schultz (2005-05-01). "The Lessons Learned From Terri Schiavo". US House of Representatives.   Retrieved on Jan. 8, 2007
  17. ^ "Hearing on Limits of Executive Power: Debbie W. Schultz". 2008-07-26.   Retrieved on July. 29, 2008
  18. ^ a b "Jewish American Heritage Month Proclaimed as May". 2006-04-25.   Retrieved on Jan. 7, 2007
  19. ^ a b c d Beth Reinhard (December 16, 2005 Friday). "Jewish History Month proposal up to president". Miami Herald.   Retrieved on Jan. 8, 2007
  20. ^ "Bailout Roll Call" (PDF). 2008-09-29. Retrieved September 29, 2008.  
  21. ^ "Bailout Senate Amendment Roll Call". 2008-10-03. Retrieved October 3, 2008.  
  22. ^ Hannity's America: Department of Labor Rolls Back on Unions by Sean Hannity
  23. ^ "Debbie Wasserman Schultz." Marquis Who's Who TM. Marquis Who's Who, 2009. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Michigan: Gale, 2009. ( Fee via Fairfax County Public Library, accessed 2009-04-25. Document Number: K2014090239.

External links

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Peter Deutsch
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Florida's 20th congressional district

2005 – present


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