Debbie Wasserman Schultz
Debbie Wasserman Schultz
|Member of the|
U.S. House of Representatives
|Assumed office |
January 3, 2005
|Preceded by||Peter Deutsch|
|Constituency||20th district (2005–2013)|
23rd district (2013–present)
|Chair of the Democratic National Committee|
May 4, 2011 – July 28, 2016
|Preceded by||Tim Kaine|
|Succeeded by||Donna Brazile (acting)|
|Member of the Florida Senate|
November 7, 2000 – November 2, 2004
|Preceded by||Howard Forman|
|Succeeded by||Nan Rich|
|Constituency||32nd district (2000–2002)|
34th district (2002–2004)
|Member of the Florida House of Representatives|
from the 97th district
November 3, 1992 – November 7, 2000
|Succeeded by||Nan Rich|
September 27, 1966
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Education||University of Florida (BA, MA)|
Deborah Wasserman Schultz (/ /; born September 27, 1966) is an American politician serving as the U.S. Representative from Florida's 23rd congressional district, first elected to Congress in 2004. A member of the Democratic Party, she is a former Chair of the Democratic National Committee.
Wasserman Schultz served in the Florida House of Representatives and the Florida Senate and was a national campaign co-chair for Hillary Clinton's 2008 run for president. Her district covers much of southern Broward County, including a large portion of Fort Lauderdale. It also covers much of northern Miami-Dade County.
Wasserman Schultz was elected chair of the Democratic National Committee in May 2011, replacing Tim Kaine. On July 28, 2016, Wasserman Schultz resigned from her position after WikiLeaks released a collection of stolen emails indicating that Wasserman Schultz and other members of the DNC staff had exercised bias against Bernie Sanders and in favor of Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Democratic primaries.
Personal life and education
Born in Forest Hills, Queens, New York, she is the daughter of Ann and Larry Wasserman. Her father is a Certified Public Accountant, and her brother Steven Wasserman is an Assistant United States Attorney for the District of Columbia.
From 1968 to 1978, the family lived in Lido Beach on Long Island. In 1978, her family moved to Melville, also on Long Island, where she graduated from Half Hollow Hills High School East in 1984. She received a Bachelor of Arts in 1988 and a Master of Arts with a certificate in political campaigning in 1990, both in political science, from the University of Florida.
At the University of Florida, Wasserman Schultz was active in student government, serving as president of the Student Senate and the founder and president of the Rawlings Area Council Government. She was also a member of the Omicron Delta Kappa honor society, the James C. Grimm chapter of the National Residence Hall Honorary, and the union Graduate Assistants United. She served as president of the Graduate Student Council and vice president of the UF College Democrats. She has credited her experience in student politics with developing her "love for politics and the political process."
Wasserman Schultz lives in Weston, near Fort Lauderdale. She is married to Steve Schultz; they have three children together. She is an active member of the National Jewish Democratic Council, Planned Parenthood, and Hadassah.
In March 2009, she revealed that she had undergone seven surgeries related to breast cancer in 2008, while maintaining her responsibilities as a member of the House. That year, she promoted efforts for early screening for breast cancer.
Florida state legislature
In 1988, Wasserman Schultz became an aide to Peter Deutsch at the beginning of his state legislative career. In 1992, Deutsch successfully ran for United States Representative of Florida's 20th congressional district, and suggested to Wasserman Schultz that she run for his vacated seat in the Florida House of Representatives. Wasserman Schultz won 53 percent of the vote in a six-way Democratic primary, avoiding a runoff. She also won the general election for this seat. At age 26, she became the youngest female legislator in the state's history.
She served four terms in the Florida State House of Representatives, for eight years, leaving due to state term limits. She became an adjunct instructor of political science at Broward Community College, as well as a public policy curriculum specialist at Nova Southeastern University.
Based on her political experience, Wasserman Schultz ran successfully for the Florida State Senate in 2000. She supported 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 as a state senator in the 2002 legislative session to manatee protection.
U.S. House of Representatives
- United States House Committee on Appropriations
- United States House Committee on Oversight and Reform
Wasserman Schultz is a member of dozens of caucuses and a member of several working groups and several task forces, including the Congressional Solar Caucus, the New Democrat Coalition, the Congressional Arts Caucus, the Afterschool Caucuses, and the United States Congressional International Conservation Caucus.
She was appointed to the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee in her first term. During the 2006 elections, she raised over $17 million 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 Appropriations Committee, a plum assignment for a sophomore congresswoman.
She currently chairs the Committee's Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies. Shortly after acquiring her spot on the Appropriations Committee, Wasserman Schultz received a waiver necessary to sit on an additional committee (Appropriations is typically an exclusive committee), and she is currently a member of the Committee on Oversight and Reform. Aside from her committee and leadership roles, she was a member of Nancy Pelosi's "30 Something" Working Group, which consists of congressional Democrats mostly under age 40. The group concentrates on issues affecting young people, including Social Security. She joined the bipartisan Congressional Cuba Democracy Caucus. According to the Congress.org 2008 Power Rankings, she was the 24th-most powerful member of the House, the 22nd-most powerful Democratic representative, and the most powerful Florida representative.
Wasserman Schultz supports gun control legislation and the LGBT community. She initiated the 2007 Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act. In 2011, Wasserman Schultz was one of the 23 co-sponsors of H.R. 3261, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA).
On April 25, 2018, 57 members of the House of Representatives, including Wasserman Schultz, released a condemnation of Holocaust distortion in Ukraine and Poland. They criticized Poland's new Holocaust law, which would criminalize accusing Poles of complicity in the Holocaust, and Ukraine's 2015 memory laws glorifying Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) and its pro-Nazi leaders, such as Roman Shukhevych.
In December 2019, Wasserman Schultz voted to impeach President Trump.
Consumer Finance Protection Bureau and payday lending
In December 2015, Wasserman Schultz was one of 24 co-sponsors of H.R. 4018, authored by GOP Congressman Dennis A. Ross, which would delay the implementation of CFPB regulations. Wasserman Schultz was among a dozen Florida representatives who cosponsored the legislation that would delay the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's payday lending rules by two years and void a "deferred presentment transaction" in states with laws similar to Florida's. She has drawn criticism for trying to delay those regulations.
Terri Schiavo case
The Terri Schiavo case was related to the fate of a young woman in Florida who had suffered brain damage after a heart attack in 1990 and was in a coma on life support. Her husband, who was her legal guardian, and the medical team wanted to remove her feeding tube, as she was in a "persistent vegetative state" with no hope of improvement. Her parents opposed this decision for years, appealing to courts, Congress, and ultimately to President George W. Bush to intervene. Wasserman Schultz was one of the strongest opponents of congressional intervention in what she believed should be a private family decision. Schiavo was finally allowed to die in 2005.
Wasserman Schultz publicly accused President George W. Bush of hypocrisy for having signed 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 by Gov. 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'." Wasserman Schultz also cited the case of a six-month-old Texas baby whose life support had been removed.
While her predecessor and mentor Peter Deutsch was "among the most hawkish congressional Democrats on Middle East issues", 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. 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.
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.
Wasserman Schultz supported Israel in the 2014 Israel–Gaza conflict and criticized MSNBC's coverage of the conflict. She said: "Clearly [MSNBC was] highlighting what Israel had done to Gaza and the plight of Palestinians. My first thought was, where is the balance? Where is the spotlight on what Jewish children in Israel go through from being victims of rocket attacks?"
Wasserman Schultz supported President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. She stated: "We must work toward a day where the entire world recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and that can be achieved through final status negotiations. I remain as committed as ever to safeguarding Israel's future as a Jewish and democratic state, at peace with its neighbors, with Jerusalem as its undisputed capital."
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 July 26, 2008.
Jewish American Heritage Month
She 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". 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", stating "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." 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."
The measure was criticized by Gary Cass, executive director of the now-defunct Center for Reclaiming America for Christ, a conservative Christian organization based in Fort Lauderdale, who 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 wondered "How much tolerance would [Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz] have for a Christian Heritage month?" She replied that the situation is different, that "Judaism is unique, because it is both a culture and a religion," and that she was not in favor of "teaching any religion in public schools." The congresswoman's father, Larry Wasserman, said that while his daughter 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."
2008 financial crisis
During an April 2009 House Judiciary Committee hearing on the Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009, fellow Floridian Tom Rooney, a former active duty 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.
Death of Daniel Wultz
Wasserman Schultz became a vocal advocate for the family of Daniel Wultz, constituents of her congressional district engaged in legal action against the Bank of China for its alleged role in financing the terrorist attack that killed the 16-year-old from Weston, Florida, in 2006.
In August 2013, Wasserman Schultz told the Miami Herald: "In South Florida, we all know too well of the tragic circumstances surrounding the cowardly terrorist attack that took Daniel Wultz's innocent life. I have been working, hand in hand with the Wultz family and the state of Israel to ensure any and all of those involved in this terrorist activity, including the Bank of China, pay for their crimes so that justice can be served."
On February 15, 2013, Wasserman Schultz introduced the Stopping Tax Offenders and Prosecuting Identity Theft Act of 2013 (H.R. 744; 113th Congress) into the House. The bill would increase the penalties on identity thieves in the United States and change the definition of identity theft to include businesses and organizations instead of just individuals.
Wasserman Schultz opposed a 2014 medical marijuana amendment in Florida that narrowly failed to reach the 60% of votes in favor needed to amend the Constitution of Florida. She angered medical marijuana activists and major Democratic donors over this and her comparisons of medical marijuana dispensaries to "pill mills", which over-prescribe and over-dispense painkillers to patients with dubious symptoms. After Wasserman Schultz expressed interest in running for the United States Senate in the 2016 elections, medical marijuana activists vowed to thwart her ambitions. Attorney and donor John Morgan said that her position on medical marijuana "disqualifies her from the [Democratic Senate] nomination... Her position denies terminally ill and chronically ill people compassion."
In response, in February 2015, Wasserman Schultz's staff emailed Morgan, offering to change her position on medical marijuana if Morgan would stop criticizing her. Morgan declined her offer and released the emails to Politico, calling her a "bully". Wasserman Schultz at first declined to comment, then denied that her office had even sent the emails. Morgan responded: "What Debbie leaves out in her pushback was the crystal clear message that her potential support of the new amendment [that has been proposed for the ballot in 2016] was predicated upon me withdrawing my comments to Politico. I don't know how to view that as anything but an offer of a quid pro quo."
In 2018, Wasserman Schultz co-sponsored a bill to "strengthen school safety and security", which required a two-thirds vote for passage, given it was brought up under an expedited process. The House voted 407–10 to approve the bill, which would "provide $50 million a year for a new federal grant program to train students, teachers and law enforcement on how to spot and report signs of gun violence". Named STOP (Students, Teachers, and Officers Preventing) School Violence Act, it would "develop anonymous telephone and online systems where people could report threats of violence." At the same time, it would authorize $25 million for schools to improve and harden their security, such as installing new locks, lights, metal detectors and panic buttons." A separate spending bill would be required to provide money for the grant program.
In 2004, Wasserman Schultz's mentor Peter Deutsch resigned 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."
Wasserman Schultz won, taking 70.2% to Hostetter's 29.8%. When Wasserman Schultz was sworn in on January 4, 2005, she chose to use the Hebrew Bible, or 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. (This was brought up two years later during the Qur'an oath controversy of the 110th United States Congress.)
Wasserman Schultz was unopposed for reelection in 2006.
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In 2008 Wasserman Schultz won her reelection bid by defeating Independent Margaret Hostetter and Socialist write-in candidate Marc Luzietti.
She announced her support of Hillary Clinton for her party's 2008 presidential nomination, and in June 2007 was named one of Clinton's national campaign co-chairs. Once Senator Barack Obama became the presumptive Democratic nominee, she endorsed him and joined Senator Ken Salazar of Colorado and Representative Artur Davis of Alabama to second his nomination at the 2008 Democratic National Convention.
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 CliffsNotes 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." Wasserman Schultz was also named a co-chair of the Democratic Party's Red to Blue congressional campaign group. Controversy arose in March 2008 when she announced that she would be unable to campaign against South Florida Republican representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Mario Díaz-Balart, and the now-retired Lincoln Díaz-Balart, because of her good friendship with them. Wasserman Schultz and Ros-Lehtinen (R–FL) are both on the LGBT Equality Caucus of which Wasserman Schultz was a Vice Chair. Ros-Lehtinen has been the sole Republican on the 112-member caucus since 2013.
Wasserman Schultz was challenged by Republican nominee Karen Harrington and Independents Stanley Blumenthal and Bob Kunst. Florida Whig Party candidate Clayton Schock ran as a write-in. Wasserman Schultz won over Harrington, 60.1% to 38.1%.
After the 2010 census, Wasserman Schultz' district was renumbered as the 23rd District and pushed further into Miami-Dade County, taking in most of Miami Beach and a portion of Miami itself. She again faced Republican businesswoman Karen Harrington. Wasserman Schultz won with 63.2% percent of the vote, to 35.6% for Harrington. When she was sworn in for her fourth term, she became the first white Democrat to represent a significant portion of Miami since 1993.
In the general election, Wasserman Schultz defeated Republican Joe Kaufman, 62.7% to 37.3%.
After a court-ordered redistricting in 2015, Wasserman Schultz lost much of her share of Miami-Dade County, including her portions of Miami and Miami Beach.
Economist and law professor Tim Canova challenged Wasserman Schultz in the August 30, 2016, Florida Democratic Party's primary election. He was endorsed by Senator Bernie Sanders, 2016 Democratic primary candidate for president. Wasserman Schultz won the primary election with 57 percent of the vote.
On August 8, 2016, in the wake of the WikiLeaks Democratic National Committee email disclosures, Canova filed a Federal Election Commission (FEC) violations of regulations complaint against Wasserman Schultz, alleging "interference" with his campaign, contending that on her behalf "...the DNC paid a team of national, senior communications and political professionals significant sums of money for their consulting services and the Wasserman Schultz for Congress Campaign utilized these services free of charge." A spokesman for Wasserman Schultz said that the complaint was without merit and that it was "based on stolen, cherry-picked information".
In the general election, Wasserman Schultz defeated Republican candidate Joe Kaufman with 56.7% to 40.5% of the vote.
Wasserman Schultz ran unopposed in the Democratic primary and was challenged by Republican candidate Joe Kaufman and Independent candidates Tim Canova and Don Endriss. Wasserman Schultz won with 58.48% of the vote to 35.99% for Kaufman, 4.95% for Canova, and 0.58% for Endriss.
Wasserman Schultz is running against Jen Perelman in August 2020.
Chair of the Democratic National Committee
On April 5, 2011, Vice President Joe Biden announced that Wasserman Schultz was President Barack Obama's choice to succeed Tim Kaine as the 52nd Chair of the Democratic National Committee. Until she assumed office, current DNC Vice-Chair Donna Brazile served as the interim Chair of the Democratic National Committee. Wasserman Schultz was confirmed at the meeting of the DNC held on May 4, 2011, in Washington, D.C.
During an appearance on Face the Nation, Wasserman Schultz said, "The Republicans have a plan to end Medicare as we know it. What they would do is they would take the people who are younger than 55 years old today and tell them, 'You know what? You're on your own. Go and find private health insurance in the health-care insurance market.'". Four non-partisan fact-checkers called her claim false. She then came under criticism for her comments on Washington Watch with Roland Martin, in which she said, "You have the Republicans, who want 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". The next day, she stated that "Jim Crow was the wrong analogy to use".
In 2012, many of Obama's advisers questioned the move to select Wasserman Schultz as his DNC chairwoman, who they felt came across as too partisan on television. An internal focus study of the popularity of top Obama campaign surrogates ranked Wasserman Schultz at the bottom. In February 2015, Politico, citing unnamed sources, reported that Wasserman Schultz had lined up supporters in 2013 to portray any decision by Barack Obama to replace her as DNC chair as "anti-woman and anti-Semitic".
2016 presidential election
Clinton's opponents, Martin O'Malley and Bernie Sanders, both criticized the decision by Wasserman Schultz to schedule only six debates in the 2016 presidential primary, fewer than in previous election cycles, as well as the timing of the debates.
Ultimately, there were nine debates that both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders participated in during the primaries, as well as a number of town halls.
Some of Wasserman Schultz's actions that the news covered during the primaries were: having reduced the debate schedule, uninviting former DNC Vice Chair Tulsi Gabbard to the first primary Democratic debate, halting the Sanders' campaign's access to DNC databases after a staffer from their campaign attempted to exploit a security breach, defending the superdelegate system used in the Democratic primaries, rescinding a prior ban on corporate donations, and accusing Sanders supporters of violence at the Nevada Convention.
After WikiLeaks published Democratic National Committee emails which suggested that DNC staffers had expressed support for Hillary Clinton in the primary campaigns while criticizing the Bernie Sanders campaign, Wasserman Schultz tendered her resignation as the head of the DNC, to become effective as of the close of the nominating convention in Philadelphia. According to reports in The Washington Post, Wasserman Schultz strongly resisted suggestions she resign, requiring a phone call from President Barack Obama to finally force her resignation.
October 2018 mail bomb attempt
On October 24, 2018, a pipe bomb device sent to former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, which had the wrong address, was instead delivered to the Florida office of U.S. Representative Wasserman Schultz, whose name and address was on the return labels of all of the packages. During this time, similar pipe bomb devices had been sent to various influential Democratic politicians. The packages containing the devices, as well as envelopes containing mysterious white powder, also labeled Schultz's office Sunrise, Florida, as the sender. However, the person who sent these devices and envelopes also misspelled her name as "Shultz." The same day, a similar device was found at Schultz's office in Aventura, Florida, as well. Fingerprint DNA helped identify the suspect as Florida resident Cesar Sayoc, who, after tracking his cell phone, was arrested in a parking lot in Plantation, Florida, on October 26, 2018.
- Crime Fighter of the Year Award, Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), 2008.
- 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
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Debbie Wasserman Schultz.|
- Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz official U.S. House site
- Debbie Wasserman Schultz for Congress
- Debbie Wasserman Schultz at Curlie
- Biography at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
- Profile at Vote Smart
- Financial information (federal office) at the Federal Election Commission
- Legislation sponsored at the Library of Congress
- Appearances on C-SPAN
|Florida House of Representatives|
| Member of the Florida House of Representatives
from the 97th district
| Member of the Florida Senate
from the 32nd district
| Member of the Florida Senate
from the 34th district
|U.S. House of Representatives|
| Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Florida's 20th congressional district
| Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Florida's 23rd congressional district
|Party political offices|
| Chair of the Democratic National Committee
|U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)|
| United States Representatives by seniority