16-term Congressman Eliot Engel, possibly the most pro-Israel lawmaker in Congress, was defeated by his challenger for the Democratic party’s New York’s 16th congressional district, Jamaal Bowman in an election that took almost a month to resolve.
In losing Engel, Israel also loses a supportive chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Of course, Bowman will have to get a few more terms under his belt before he can claim Engel’s kind of power and influence in the House (thank God – DI).
Engel supported recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. In 2003, he authored the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act, which was signed into law by President George W. Bush, authorizing penalties and restrictions on US relations with Syria for its occupation of Lebanon, and for its relationship with terrorist groups.
As Chairman of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, Engel has called for stronger US relations with Latin America and the Caribbean. His Subcommittee held hearings on the crisis in Haiti, poverty, and inequality in Latin America.
Engel pushed for increased funding for emergency relief in Haiti, and for Temporary Protective Status (TPS) of Haitian nationals in the US. Engel also supported the “Mérida Initiative,” in which the US is cooperating with Mexico, Central America, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti to counter narco-trafficking and related violence in the region.
Bowman is a middle-school principal who was endorsed by Democratic progressives and argued that the incumbent had lost touch with his district – which includes both the Bronx and Westchester County. He campaigned on the liberal agenda associated with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, like Medicare for All, the single-payer health care plan, and the Green New Deal.
“The world has changed, Congress needs to change, too,” Bowman said in a statement to the media shortly after he was declared the winner. “But if we can take on entrenched power and wealthy interests here in Westchester and the Bronx, then we can do it all across this country.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca) issued a statement saying “Chairman Eliot Engel has been a powerful force for good in America in his three decades of service in the Congress. His leadership has strengthened our Caucus, Congress and country at the helm of the Foreign Affairs Committee, where he has been masterful in his work keeping the American people safe at home while protecting our interests and advancing our values abroad. And serving as a Senior Member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, he has strengthened millions of families’ health, financial security and well-being.
“I salute Chairman Engel for his distinguished service, which has made a difference for America. I congratulate Jamaal Bowman on his victory and look forward to welcoming him to Congress.
“Jamaal Bowman has run an electrifying campaign that has stirred the Bronx and Westchester communities with his message of hope, justice and progress. As an educator and progressive advocate, he has been a voice for the voiceless who brings great urgency to the fight to lift up working families.”