- Democratic U.S. congresswoman (Florida)
- Chaired the Democratic National Committee from April 2011 to July 2016
- Co-chaired Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign
- Supporter of J Street
Deborah Wasserman Schultz was born September 27, 1966 in Queens, New York, and was raised on Long Island. She received a BA degree in 1988 and an MA in 1990, both in political science, from the University of Florida. From 1989-92 Schultz worked as an aide to U.S. Congressman Peter Deutsch, who represented Florida’s heavily Democratic 20th Congressional District and became a mentor to the young woman.
From 1992-2000, Schultz served in the Florida State House of Representatives. During that period, she was also an adjunct instructor of political science at Broward Community College, and a public-policy curriculum specialist at Nova Southeastern University. In 2001 Schultz was elected to the Florida State Senate, where she served until 2004. When Peter Deutsch in 2004 gave up his Congressional seat in order to make a bid (unsuccessfully) for the U.S. Senate, Schultz ran for, and won, Deutch’s vacated seat in the House of Representatives.1 Since then, Schultz has been reelected to Congress every two years.
Beginning in 2007, Schultz was a national co-chair for Senator Hillary Clinton‘s campaign for the Democratic Party’s 2008 presidential nomination. When Barack Obama became the presumptive Democratic nominee in mid-2008, Schultz enthusiastically endorsed him; she later seconded his nomination at the Democratic National Convention.
In May 2009, Schultz co-hosted a J Street event on Capitol Hill, praising that organization for its “worthy goals” and its efforts to “advance the interests of Israel.” Five months later, she addressed a closed-door VIP reception at a J Street gala event in Washington, DC.
In February 2011, after Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak (a longtime diplomatic partner of the U.S. and Israel) was deposed (in the Egyptian revolution) and imprisoned by Islamists affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, Schultz sided with the Islamists. Lauding their “truly momentous grassroots call for democracy from the streets and squares of Egypt,” she stated that “the voices of the people of Egypt were finally heeded.”
On April 5, 2011, President Obama selected Schultz to succeed Tim Kaine as chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC).
In May 2011, when President Obama’s called for Israel’s pre-1967 borders—adjusted by certain land exchanges—to serve as the geographical basis of an independent Palestinian state, Schultz said the president had merely “reiterated long-standing American foreign policy” while “demonstrat[ing] his stalwart dedication to the safety and security of our friend and ally, Israel.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, by contrast, said that Obama’s proposal, if adopted, would leave the Jewish state “indefensible,” placing its very “existence” in peril. Five months later, Schultz told an audience of mostly Jewish seniors in Coconut Vreek, Florida that certain parts of Israel are simply “not important.”
In a June 5, 2011 interview with CNN, Schultz was asked about Republican calls for measures requiring photo identification at polling places, to cut down on voter fraud. Portraying the proposal as “very similar to a poll tax” designed to “thro[w] a barrier in the way of someone who’s trying to exercise their right to vote,” Schultz accused Republicans of wanting “to literally drag us all the way back to Jim Crow laws and literally—and very transparently—block access to the polls to voters who are more likely to vote for Democratic candidates than Republican candidates.” When reporters subsequently asked Schultz to elaborate on the “Jim Crow” reference, she angrily denied ever having said it, despite video evidence of the comment.2
In March 2012, Schultz cancelled a keynote speech she was scheduled to deliver at an April 21 fundraising banquet for a Florida-based organization known as EMERGE USA. The cancellation came shortly after a number of media sources had reported on that organization’s radical Islamist ties. Schultz’s spokesman subsequently claimed that the congresswoman had never actually agreed to appear at the event. EMERGE USA’s vice chairman, however, said that Schultz had indeed “agreed to speak at the banquet,” only to change her mind following the negative publicity.
A former board member of two Planned Parenthood chapters, Schultz has frequently criticized Republicans for seeking to end taxpayer funding for that organization, and for opposing the notion that all employers, including religious institutions, should be required to provide their workers with health insurance plans that cover contraception and abortion services. At various times in 2012, Schultz accused the Republican Party of being “callous and insensitive … towards women’s priorities”; promoting “extreme policies” that would “tur[n] back the clock for women”; and waging a veritable “war on women.”
In August 2012, Schultz described Republican criticisms of President Obama’s welfare policy as part of a “shockingly transparent” appeal to white racism—“a dog whistle for voters who consider race when casting their ballot.”
On September 4, 2012, Philip Klein of the Washington Examiner reported that Schultz, at a recent training session “aimed at teaching Jewish Democrats how to convince their fellow Jews to vote for Obama,” had said: “We know, and I’ve heard no less than Ambassador Michael Oren say this, that what the Republicans are doing is dangerous for Israel.” When a Fox News reporter later questioned her about the quote, Schultz, accusing “a conservative newspaper” of having “deliberately misquote[d]” her, replied: “I didn’t say he [Oren] said that.” But Philip Klein subsequently released an audio recording which proved that the congresswoman had in fact said exactly what Klein had quoted her as saying. Ambassador Oren, for his part, said: “I categorically deny that I ever characterized Republican policies as harmful to Israel.”
In early August 2014 — in the midst of a sudden, massive influx across America’s southern border by more than 50,000 unaccompanied, illegal-immigrant minors hailing from Central America — Schultz condemned her Republican colleagues in Congress over their opposition to granting amnesty to those minors. Citing “their callous indifference to the plight of children streaming across the border, fleeing horrific circumstances in their own country,” Schultz charged that “Republicans are simply strangled by extremism.” “There is no more establishment, or middle or moderate wing” of the Republican Party, Schultz continued. “… These people are out of control. It’s stunning.”
In a July 2015 appearance on Hardball with Chris Matthews, Matthews asked Schultz, “What is the difference between a Democrat and a socialist?” In response, the congresswoman laughed. Matthews pressed on: “I used to think there was a big difference, but what do you think it is?” Again, Schultz was unable to answer and attempted to change the subject: “The relevant debate that we’ll be having over the course of this campaign, is what’s the difference between a Democrat and a Republican.”
When Meet The Press host Chuck Todd again asked Schultz, on August 2, to answer Matthews’s original question, she replied: “You know, Chuck, it’s always fun to be interviewed by Chris Matthews, and I know that he enjoys that banter. The important distinction that I think we will be discussing, I’m confident we’ll be discussing in this campaign, is the difference between Democrats and Republicans. The difference between Democrats and Republicans is that Democrats want to make sure that people have an opportunity to climb the ladders of success and reach the middle class, have a good education, have a secure retirement. Look at the Republican field, what they stand for is the extremism that you’ve seen on full display over the last few weeks, which is why Donald Trump is their frontrunner. Donald Trump is essentially a reflection of where the Republican party is today. Limiting a woman’s right to make her own healthcare decisions, shifting to a more privately focused education system, ending Medicare as we know it … that’s the important and relevant contrast …”
As the Democratic National Committee’s presidential nominating convention got underway on July 24, 2016, Schultz abruptly announced that she was resigning her post as DNC chair, in light of a trove of DNC emails that had recently been made public by WikiLeaks — emails proving that Schultz and other party officials had conspired to sabotage the campaign of Senator Bernie Sanders, who was battling Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination. “I know that electing Hillary Clinton as our next president is critical for America’s future,” Schultz said in a statement. “I look forward to serving as a surrogate for her campaign in Florida and across the country to ensure her victory. Going forward, the best way for me to accomplish those goals is to step down as party chair at the end of this convention.”
DNC vice chairwoman Donna Brazile was named as an interim replacement for Schultz. Meanwhile, the Clinton campaign hired Schultz to serve as honorary chair of its 50-state program to elect Democrats to key political offices nationwide.
In 2016, Schultz’s noteworthy connections to Imran Awan, a suspected Pakistani spy whom she had long employed, made national headlines. For details about that matter, click here.
Voting Record and Additional Information
For an overview of Schultz’s voting record on various key issues as a member of Congress, click here.
For additional information on Debbie Wasserman Schultz, click here.
1 When she was sworn in on January 4, 2005, Schultz chose to place her right hand on the Tanakh.
2 At that point, Schultz said: “Jim Crow was the wrong analogy to use, but I don’t regret calling attention to the efforts in a number of states with Republican dominated legislatures … to restrict access to the ballot box for all kinds of voters, but particularly young voters, African Americans and Hispanic Americans.”