Rahm Emanuel

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Rahm Emanuel served the 5th Congressional district of Illinois from 2003-2008

Rahm Emanuel was a Democratic member of the U. S. House of Representatives representing the 5th Congressional District of Illinois since 2003. The district covers the northside of Chicago and parts of Cook County (map).

Following the November 2008 election of Barack Obama, Emanuel was named the President-elect's chief of staff. He subsequently resigned from his seat in the House of Representatives.

Following Democratic victories in the 2006 midterm elections, for which Emanuel served as chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, he was named the chairman of the Democratic Caucus for the 110th Congress.

In interviews presumably representing the view of the new administration, Emanuel supported federal aid for the U.S. auto industry, calling it "an essential part of the economy," and noting that the aid could be used as "part of an energy policy, going forward, where America is less dependent on foreign oil." [1]

Record and controversies

General information about important bills and votes for can be found in Congresspedia's articles on legislation. You can add information you find on how Rahm Emanuel voted by clicking the "[edit]" link to the right and typing it in. Remember to cite your sources!

National security and foreign policy

On February 28, 2007, Emanuel introduced the Wounded Warriors Act in the House. The bill would mandate standards of care and facilities for wounded soldiers. It would create a congressionally appointed Wounded Warrior Oversight Board, a 24-hour bilingual hotline, employment protections for caregiver family members and a zero-tolerance for pest infestations at recovery facilities. The bill was introduced in the wake of public furor over a series in the Washington Post detailing squalid conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Main article: U.S. veterans and soldiers legislation

Iraq War

On May 24, 2007, Rep. Emanuel, along with Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) in the Senate, added a provision to the Iraq War funding bill that would stop the Bush administration from cutting Medicaid payments to hospitals for one year. The bill, including the Medicaid provision, passed overwhelmingly, 348-73.

Main article: Congressional actions to end the Iraq War in the 110th Congress
For more information see the chart of U.S. House of Representatives votes on the Iraq War.

Environmental record

For more information on environmental legislation, see the Energy and Environment Policy Portal

Gun control

Emanuel cosponsored H.R. 1312 (Assault Weapons Ban and Law Enforcement Protection Act of 2005) on June 30, 2005.[2]

Main article: U.S. gun legislation

Ethics record

Prior to the 109th Congress convening for the 2006 midterm elections the Republican majority passed a rule change that made public the names of earmark sponsors on appropriations bills. The majority of Democrats opposed the rule change stating that it did not go far enough. Reps. Emanuel and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) offered an amendment to the proposed earmark reform House rules change that went much further than solely making the identity of the earmark author public. The Emanuel-Van Hollen amendment would:

  • Disallow earmarks that could personally benefit a member's spouse, child, or immediate family member.
  • Prohibits Members from awarding earmarks that will benefit a registered lobbyist or former registered lobbyist who serves as chairman of the leadership political action committee of the Member requesting the earmark.
  • Bans the awarding of earmarks to any entity that employs the spouse or immediate family member of the earmark’s sponsor, employs or is represented by a former employee of the earmark’s sponsor, or is represented by a lobbying firm that employs any spouse or close relative of the earmark’s sponsor.
  • Provides that no tax measure may contain any provision amending Title VI of the U.S. Code to benefit one individual, corporation or entity.
  • Prohibits the inclusion of earmarks and other provisions in conference reports without the language having first been in either the House or Senate legislation’s original language.

A spokesman for House Rules Chairman David Dreier (R-Calif.) responded to the proposal by stating that amendments are not usually permitted to rule changes. Nevertheless, a procedural vote could be forced. [1]

Main article: Prospects for Ethics Reform in the 110th Congress

Pressure on Gonzales to continue congressional ethics probe

On February 7, 2007, Emanuel called on Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to name former U.S. Attorney Carol Lam as outside counsel to continue her investigation of former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham. At this point, Cunningham was in prison after pleaded guilty in 2006 to taking $2.4 million in bribes. [2]

In his letter to Gonzales, Emanuel argued that “keeping Lam on as an outside counsel would allow the Bush administration to dispel questions about whether Lam’s firing was politically motivated.” During the time of her dismissal, Lam was investigating whether the Cunningham case involved other members of Congress and lobbyists. [3]

Emanuel continued, “To remove the cloud of politics over Ms. Lam’s dismissal, and to ensure there are no delays in the investigation of the Cunningham matter, I call on you to immediately name Carol Lam as outside counsel with all necessary resources to continue her excellent work on the Cunningham case and related matters.” [4]

Chicago Water Deparment

In May of 2005, Gerald Wesolowski, a top lieutenant in City Hall's Water Department, pled guilty to collecting $200,000 in bribes from trucking companies.[5] Wesolowski also stated that his former boss Donald Tomczak, who has since been ordered him to raise funds and direct water department workers to campaign for a number of politicians including Richard M. Daley and Rahm Emanuel back in 2002. David Keene, the President of the American Conservative Union, brought up this incident as evidence that Emanuel is hypocritical for assailing Tom DeLay over ethics issues.[6] Emanuel, however, has never been alleged of wrongdoing and has stated that he was unaware of the pressure Tomczak was using on water department workers to campaign in the 2002 election.

Election reform

On June 27, 2007, the House passed by voice vote the Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Prevention Act of 2007, sponsored by Rep. Emanuel. The bill, still pending passage in the Senate, would establish criminal penalties for acts of voter deception. Those who knowingly disseminate false information with the intention of keeping others from voting would face up to five years in prison under the legislation.

Main article: Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Prevention Act of 2007

Health care

In 2005, Emanuel worked with Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich to pressure the FDA to allow prescription drug re-importation. [7]


According to NARAL's rating system, Emanuel has maintained a 100% pro-choice voting record.

Colbert Report Warnings

Rep. Emanuel has taken on a significant role, both as the Democratic Caucus chairman, and adviser to Freshmen House members. Among his recent advice has been to avoid going on the Colbert Report, fearing they will will say something ludicrous and lose the Democrats a House seat. [8]


Early Career

Emanuel was born November 29, 1959 in Chicago. Emanuel was a ballet dancer as a boy and in high school and won a scholarship to the Joffrey Ballet. He turned down the scholarship to attend Sarah Lawrence College, a school with a strong dance program and "there were four women for every guy."[9] He graduated in 1981 and received a Master's Degree in Speech and Communication from Northwestern University in 1985. While still a student at Sarah Lawrence College, he joined the congressional campaign of David Robinson of Chicago.

Emanuel began his career with the consumer rights organization Illinois Public Action. He went on to serve in a number of capacities in local and national politics, including liberal Democrat Paul Simon's 1984 election to the U.S. Senate, political director for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 1988, and senior advisor and chief fundraiser for Richard M. Daley's victorious campaign for mayor of Chicago in 1989. Emanuel became known for his fundraising abilities in the mayoral campaign of Richard Daley. He would insist on donors giving more than they previously gave, even hanging up the phone on donors to convey his disgust. At the age of 30 he raised an unheard of $7 million for Daley. This helped win him a job as Director of Finance in the 1992 Presidential campaign of then-Governor Bill Clinton.

Clinton administration

He joined then Governor Bill Clinton's presidential primary campaign in 1991 and worked as part of the original "War Room" with George Stephanopoulos, James Carville, and Paul Begala. Following the campaign, Emanuel became a senior advisor to Clinton at the White House (1993-1998). In the White House, Emanuel was initially Assistant to the President for Political Affairs but was fired for overstepping his bounds. He then worked his way from the bottom of the administration, lobbying Congress for NAFTA and working to recast Clinton as a centrist[10], until he was appointed Senior Advisor to the President for Polical Strategy. He was a leading strategist in the White House's ultimately unsuccessful push for universal healthcare in 1994 and worked on a variety of other issues including expanding the use of school uniforms[11] and putting trigger locks on guns. Emanuel's proudest work came from organizing and choreographing the meeting and handshake between Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.[12] In the Clinton White House, Emanuel "was a consistent voice for anti-crime measures, welfare reform and other initiatives that pushed against liberal orthodoxy." [3]

He left the White House to accept a well-paid position in investment banking at Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein in Chicago where he worked from 1999-2002, when he was elected to the U.S. House. Over his four years at the investment bank, then called Wasserstein Perella & Co., Emanuel reportedly made $18 million. [4]

First primary campaign

In his first Congressional primary campaign, a nasty battle over the prize Democrat seat, the president of the Polish American Congress, Ed Moskal, who was supporting Emanuel's main rival, claimed that Emanuel was secretly an Israeli citizen and served in the Israeli army. Moskal also called Emanuel a "millionaire carpetbagger who knows nothing" about "our heritage." Emanuel served as a noncombatant in the Israeli army during the first Gulf War and is not an Israeli citizen. Emanuel strongly denied both claims and brought a coalition of Chicago clergy together to denounce Moskal's allegations. Emanuel said of the incident, "One of the proudest moments of my life was seeing people of my district from all backgrounds demonstrate our common values by coming together in response to this obvious attempt to divide them."[13]

Congressional career

Nicknamed "Rahmbo", the Congressman is well known for aggression and great intensity. He sent a rotting fish to a pollster whom he said sent inaccurate and poorly prepared research to him while working as national campaign director at the DCCC during the late 1980s.[14]

Emanuel is known as a centrist Democrat, but also a very strong partisan. He favors "incremental, family-friendly policies in the Clinton mode" like tax-breaks for middle-class families, incentives to encourage workers to save, and importing prescription drugs from Canada to lower the cost to seniors.[15]

Following the Democratic victory in the 2006 midterm elections, Emanuel was elected to be chairman of the Democratic Caucus chairman for the 110th Congress. [16]


Emanuel was named the Chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2005 after Rep. Robert Matsui (D-CA) died.[17] Prior to his work for Clinton, he had been employed at the same Committee. His role at the DCCC is leading fundraising efforts to support the Democrats strategy to improve its poor level of representation in the Congress. He has declared that in his new role "winning is everything." The Committee's role is principally that of recruiting good candidates for the House and Senate and raising funds to assist new candidates and incumbents from the Democratic party.

Emanuel is using his tenure at the DCCC to try and create a "change election" in 2006. Since he took over for the deceased Matsui he has aggressively attacked Republicans on ethics issues, particularly now-former Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX). "Emanuel is trying to create a national wave of anti-Washington sentiment rooted in the mounting instances of corruption and sleaze that have piled up in the Republican-led Congress," according to Rolling Stone.[18] He holds meetings every Thursday morning to strategize for the elections and meet with other members of Congress. By February of 2006, the National Republican Congressional Committee had outraised his DCCC $74.1 million to $48.6 million (February 2006 numbers).[19]

2006 elections

In 2006, the Republicans nominated Kevin Edward White to face Emanuel in his November 2006 bid for reelection. (See U.S. congressional elections in 2006) Emanuel defeated White by a large margin, receiving 78% of the vote. [20]

2008 elections

This information was gathered by volunteer researchers as part of the Superdelegate Transparency Project on the superdelegates for the 2008 Democratic presidential primary. For more info see the Illinois superdelegate tracker or visit the STP homepage.

Before Hillary Clinton conceded the race, Rahm Emanuel, as a superdelegate, had not endorsed a candidate for President.

  • For more information and sources, see the state page for this superdelegate linked to in the blue box above.

Obama administration

President-election Barack Obama announced that Emanuel would join his administration as chief of staff on Nov. 6, 2008.[5]

Money in politics

This section contains links to – and feeds from – money in politics databases. <crpcontribdata>cid=N00024813&cycle=2008</crpcontribdata>

Links to more campaign contribution information for Rahm Emanuel
from the Center for Responsive Politics' OpenSecrets.org site.
Fundraising profile: 2006 election cycle Career totals
Top contributors by organization/corporation: 2006 election cycle Career totals
Top contributors by industry: 2006 election cycle Career totals

Committees and Affiliations

Committees assignments in the 110th Congress (2007-2009)

Committee assignments in the 109th Congress (2005-2006)

More Background Data

Wikipedia also has an article on Rahm Emanuel. This article may use content from the Wikipedia article under the terms of the GFDL.


Transition Team Contact Page

Articles and Resources


  1. Jeff Zeleny, "Obama Weighs Quick Undoing of Bush Policy," New York Times, November 9, 2008.
  2. Thomas page on H.R. 1312
  3. Mike Allen and Jim Vandehei, "Obama wants Emanuel for chief of staff," Politico.com, November 5, 2008.
  4. A. James Memmott, "Rahm Emanuel agrees to be chief of staff," Muckety.com, November 5, 2008.
  5. Anne E. Kornblut and Karen DeYoung, "Emanuel to Be Chief of Staff," Washington Post, Nov. 7, 2008.


Local blogs and discussion sites


Articles by Emanuel