Social welfare advocates in the Jewish communal world are hopeful of a new era of cooperation between the Obama administration and congressional Republicans as the nation heads toward what many in the media term a “fiscal cliff.”
Jewish agencies that administer services ranging from counseling to elder care took heart when Speaker of the House John Boehner said he is willing to compromise with the newly re-elected president over taxes and funding social programs.
But William Daroff, vice president for public policy and director of the Washington, DC, office of the Jewish Federations of North America, said the two sides must act quickly in compromising on a budget agreement.
“There is a period of time after an election — like a magic hour — when the sun is shining and the right people are there,” he told NJ Jewish News in a Nov. 8 phone interview. “The next election is far enough away so that there is a zone of time when legislators put aside their petty partisanship and focus on governing.
“It is our hope that this will be one of those times.”
Daroff said the network of Jewish federations provides billions of dollars to people in vulnerable populations in need of care.
“We estimate that about $4 billion in Medicaid funds and health insurance programs, mostly for the poor, flows through Jewish social service agencies every year,” he said. “What we are mobilizing over throughout the Jewish community is to recognize that given the fiscal realities, we understand the needs for cuts, but we believe those cuts should not be disproportional and fall upon the most vulnerable among us.”
Local agencies are also rooting for a compromise that protects such funding.
“If federal program are cut, that will affect state programs as well,” said Jacob Toporek, executive director of the New Jersey State Association of Jewish Federations. He is especially concerned with the possibility of greater cuts in state Medicare subsidies and further austerity in managed health-care programs.
“We certainly hope Congress can get together and do what they have to do and make sure the most vulnerable are protected,” he added.
Partisan activists in the capital’s Jewish community were also hopeful that a new spirit of cooperation would replace the bitter relationship between the Obama administration and the GOP.
One day after the elections, the Republican Jewish Coalition issued a statement congratulating Obama. Although the same statement boasted that “Exit Polls Show Erosion of Jewish Support for Obama,” it also read, “All of us must come together to craft real solutions to the very serious problems our country faces today.”
David A. Harris, president and CEO of the National Jewish Democratic Council, agreed.
“I am hopeful for a new era of compromise, and there is a brief window for that new era of compromise,” he told NJJN. “To his credit, some of Speaker Boehner’s comments reflect that understanding. If Republicans have learned anything from the last election, the more hawkish and fiscally conservative they were, the more scared most Americans were of them.”
But in a Nov. 8 e-mail to supporters, a group called the Tea Party Patriots rejected any notion of compromise with the president and his party.
“If Barack Obama and his ruinous agenda are going to be stopped, it’s going to have to be done by Tea Party Americans who aren’t afraid to fight for true limited government,” it said. “We have to stand up right now and make sure that every single Republican understands that we expect them to FIGHT Barack Obama — not ‘compromise’ with him.”