A strong Israeli-American relationship, environmental policy, and President Donald Trump’s national emergency declaration were among the issues mentioned by Democratic members of Congress at the Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA) reception welcoming the 116th Congress, held at the Liaison Capitol Hill Hotel on Feb. 26.
A dozen members of Congress — including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV), and Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-M18), among others — appeared at the evening event, which took place shortly after the House voted against President Trump’s national emergency executive order.
“I asked our Republican colleagues to think how they would vote on this [national emergency] resolution if Barack Obama had been president of the United States,” said Hoyer, in reference to the House resolution blocking President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency. “This wasn’t about the wall, but about whether the Executive could declare an emergency and do whatever they want.”
Central themes in many of the speakers’ brief addresses were the importance of fighting against rising anti-Semitism and maintaining a strong U.S.-Israel relationship.
“I told [Prime Minister] Netanyahu, the first threat to Israel’s security may be Iran and the bombs, but the second threat to Israel is losing the young people,” said Schumer. “Especially on the left side of the ledger. It’s so important that we don’t make Israel a partisan
Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro said the commitment of the Jewish community should be “not just about Israel, but about values,” citing immigration and climate change as two issues that should be afforded attention.
“We are stewards of this beautiful earth G-d has given us,” Shapiro said. “There’s a debate to be had about how we can help that, but it’s time we address these issues. America should lead the world on that.”
Rosen suggested that support for Israel and progressive beliefs should not be separated from one another.
“Israel is a country that supports LGBTQ rights, tackles climate change, and just this past week sent a spaceship to the moon,” said Rosen. “I strongly believe we should be pursuing these same progressive Jewish values right here in the United States.”
Along with these issues, Slotkin mentioned rising costs and access to health care as a topic that should be high on the priority list for both the incoming Congress and the Jewish community at large.
“It’s a really big challenge that directly affects millions of lives in this country,” said Slotkin. “It’s up to us to understand that and make sure we don’t miss a really big issue.”
By Anis Modi
Anis Modi is a staff writer for Kol HaBirah.