Speculation about the members of President-elect Barack Obama’s Cabinet and other senior staff has drawn headlines — but there’s also no shortage of interest in who will be the next presidential representative to the American Jewish community, or in how much influence that person will have in a White House chock-full of well-known Jews.
It’s difficult to quantify whether Jews are in line to hold any sort of a record number of top positions in the Obama administration or the next Congress, but it’s clear that a large number of Jews stand to serve in key positions.
When the new Congress debuts in January 2009, a record 45 Jews will take the oath of office: 32 in the House of Representatives and — regardless of the outcome in the still-contested Minnesota election — 13 Jews in the Senate.
Joe Lieberman came out of his day of reckoning quite well. “This is the beginning of a new chapter,” the Connecticut senator said after a private Democratic caucus meeting held November 18 in the historic Old Senate Chamber. The meeting was held to decide what to do about the fact that Lieberman crossed his Democratic colleagues this year to work as a key supporter for the Republican presidential candidate, John McCain.
At a time when a record number of Jews will serve in the next Congress, two of the most prominent Jewish lawmakers on Capitol Hill find their careers and influence heading in opposite directions.
A week after the polls closed, there’s no end in sight for the election fight between Norm Coleman and Al Franken for Minnesota’s Jewish Senate seat.
After not only supporting John McCain, the Republican presidential nominee, but criticizing the Democratic presidential nominee, U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman is fighting for his job as chairman of the Homeland Security Committee. And Democrats must decide whether they want him to caucus with them.
The Jewish support for Barack Obama’s historic election showed that despite lengthy and expensive efforts by Republicans, Jews remained a solid Democratic constituency, willing to vote in record numbers for a candidate who had to earn their backing.
Virginia Congressman Eric Cantor, the only Jewish Republican in the House, is said to be running for House GOP whip position.
UPDATE 2:15 p.m.