New Year’s Congressional Commotion

Monday, September 29th, 2008

James Besser in Washington

With bank failures and a bearish stock market casting a dark shadow over the Capitol, Congress is scrambling to pass the record $700 billion financial bailout package this week. And that’s causing big problems for numerous Jewish lawmakers.

Many Jewish House members – there are 30 of them – were watching the clock as today’s debate dragged on and their prospects for getting out of town in time for the beginning of Rosh Hashanah diminished with every tick.

According to Congressional Quarterly, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) advised House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) that it would be okay to hold the debate during the holiday period because “the observance of any Jewish ritual commandment can be waived to save a life.”

Getting some kind of economic rescue plan is that important, Waxman suggested.

At noon on Monday it looked like the debate was far from over, and some Jewish lawmakers from the West, facing long flights home, were starting to sweat.

Jewish staffers were besieged by Jewish lawmakers complaining about the schedule and by non-Jews trying to figure out why Jewish members were so stressed out.

Even Jewish members who aren’t big synagogue goers were sweating over the possibility they’d miss the start of the holiday.

The Senate is scheduled to vote on the package – the Bush administration, which only weeks ago was insisting the fundamentals of the economy were sound,  now says it is essential to prevent economic catastrophe – on Wednesday.

Most observant Jews take two days off for the holiday, but it’s hard to picture any of the 11 Jewish senators – with the possible exception of Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) –  missing a debate and vote that will almost certainly go into the history books.

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.