Time will tell.
Jewish politicos and communal activists began the process of adjustment, bidding farewell to five Jewish incumbents who did not survive the Republican upset and becoming acquainted with newcomers, many of them Tea Party candidates previously unknown to a community that prides itself on building bridges with politicians of both parties.
Jewish voters did not seem to take part in the anti-Democratic wave that swept the nation. According to a poll commissioned by the dovish J Street lobby, 66% of Jewish voters chose the Democratic candidates for Congress in their districts. There was no national Jewish poll conducted in the 2006 midterm election, but the percentage this year was lower than the 78% of Jews who voted for Barack Obama in 2008.
In a separate survey that focused on the state of Pennsylvania, where Democratic senatorial candidate Joe Sestak was attacked for his views on Israel, results were similar, with 71% of Jewish voters saying they sided with Sestak on Election Day.
While the Republican congressional takeover is expected to have little impact on issues relating to Israel and the Middle East that are of concern to Jewish Americans, it will significantly affect the community’s domestic agenda.
“Among the lessons of the vote was that the American people are speaking out against spending; that’s clearly where the wind is blowing,” said William Daroff, vice president for public policy and director of the Washington office of The Jewish Federations of North America, an umbrella organization for Jewish federations that provide social services, some of them now expected to be on the chopping block.
Delivering the point of changing priorities was Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor, now the sole Jewish Republican in Congress, soon to be the highest-ranking Jew in congressional history. Cantor, expected to become House majority leader, made clear in an interview with CNN that Republicans’ first order of business when the new Congress is sworn in will be cutting government spending. “We need to put federal government on a diet,” Cantor said, speaking as ballots closed throughout the country and as returns showed massive gains for his party.
It is a kind of diet that is worrying Jewish organizations. Major groups, including the federation system, have been fighting to increase spending to broaden the social safety net and expand benefits for the needy. Now, the Republican majority in the House is likely to prompt the Jewish community to re-examine its domestic priorities and to focus on fighting cuts. Expanding entitlements and introducing new social legislation will move to the back burner.
Several Jewish activists have already spoken about putting aside key issues from their agenda, including immigration reform and energy legislation, since chances for passage were all but eliminated by the congressional upset. “We are a pragmatic organization, and we will hold on to our views” said Rabbi Steve Gutow, president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, “but where we put our time and effort will be in places where we can make a difference.”
Instead, Jewish groups are expected to concentrate on the looming budget cuts facing the basic entitlement programs — Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — as well as on continuing the fight for smaller social programs, such as the reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act.
Reductions in Medicare and Medicaid have been suggested by both sides of the aisle and could be part of the recommendations from a bipartisan White House fiscal commission, due on December 1. A Republican-led House would make it easier to approve such recommendations.
Friday, November 05, 2010
Time to worry about domestic policy...
For the Jews that voted Democratic, like myself, it is time to start worrying about domestic policies once again now that the Republicans have taken over the House come January.