"We are thrilled to welcome more than 75 Jewish community and organizational leaders to the Nov. 13 JUF joint Government Affairs Committee / Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) meeting to learn more about the results of the 2018 midterm elections," said Judy Smith, CJE SeniorLife Representative to JUF's Board and Government Affairs Committee Vice Chair for Federal Affairs.
The program featured Lynn Sweet, Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times, and Suzanne Strassberger, JUF Associate Vice President for Government and Community Partnerships and Director of the Springfield Office. Sweet broke down some of the most important takeaways from the congressional races and provided insights for what may be ahead in the 116 th Congress. Strassberger ran through some of the key wins and losses in Springfield, with an eye toward what impact the new legislature and governorship will have on JUF's agenda.
One of the big stories of the election, Sweet noted, was that the Democrats won control of the U.S. House of Representatives for the first time since 2011. Republicans maintained a slim majority in the Senate. There still are several House and Senate races still too close to call, but we do know there will be a few more Jewish members in Congress beginning in 2019: an increase from 23 to 28 in the House and from eight to nine in the Senate. She also noted that with a new generation of progressives coming in who are likely to move the Democratic Party more to the left, and a shrinking moderate Republican voice and more conservatives moving the Republican Party more to the right, such polarization could lead to more gridlock. Sweet also noted there will be more than 100 women in the 116 th Congress.
Strassberger provided an overview of wins and losses in Springfield, with an eye toward what impact the new legislature will have on JUF's policy agenda. Although many have heralded the 2018 elections as the "year of the woman," Strassberger said that at the Illinois state level the number of seats held by women in 2019 would only increase by one.
The election also ushered in a new governor. J.B. Pritzker, a Democrat, who defeated Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner. In an effort to predict what will be on Governor-Elect Pritzker's agenda during the first 100 days, Strassberger anticipates there will be considerable focus on the state's fiscal problems; passing a capital bill; a possible Medicaid buy-in program that the governor-elect supports for those who don't qualify for Medicaid; and possibly education-related issues. Attendees also had a chance to hear a lot about what the state elections may mean for JUF's agenda, particularly related to reimbursement rates and payments to providers for health care and human services.
Ofer Bavly, Director General of JUF's Israel Office, called in to the meeting to provide a real-time update from Tel Aviv on the status of Hamas' recent rocket attacks on Israel from Gaza. Bavly reported that 460 rockets had been fired over 36 hours.