WASHINGTON (JTA) — U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch was named the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Middle East subcommittee — one of five Jewish Democrats among the 10 Democrats on the subcommittee.
The Florida lawmaker’s selection on Tuesday by Democrats on the Foreign Affairs Committee was a surprise, as he has been in Congress less than three years and Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), the second most senior Democrat on the committee, had expected the spot.
Deutch told JTA that he was "humbled" by his selection.
"This is a time of great challenges in the Middle East — the Iranian threat, Israel’s security, tough issues throughout the region," he said.
Deutch said he had already spoken with the committee’s chairwoman, fellow South Floridian Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican, about working together.
Deutch whipped among Foreign Affairs Democrats over the last three days, insiders on the committee said, and called Sherman midday Tuesday when he realized he had the votes to defeat him. Sherman opted not to challenge Deutch, instead keeping his longstanding spot leading Democrats on the terrorism subcommittee.
Working in Deutch’s favor was his success at passing legislation both in the Florida Legislature, where he led the effort to divest the state’s pension funds from Iran, and in the U.S. House of Representatives, where he has been a leader on passing recent Iran sanctions.
Along with Deutch, the other Jewish Democrats on the subcommittee are Alan Grayson and Lois Frankel, both of Florida; David Cicilline of Rhode Island; and Bradley Schneider of Illinois. Also on the Middle East subcommittee is Grace Meng (D-N.Y.), who was elected when its last ranking Democrat, Gary Ackerman, retired at the end of the last Congress.
Overall, eight of the Foreign Affairs Committee’s Democrats are Jewish, including its top Democrat, Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), a strong representation typical of the last several decades.