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Kathy Manning is seeking a spot on Foreign Affairs

The newly elected congresswoman says 'it’s going to take a lot of work to rebuild' foreign relationships post-Trump

Gerry Broome/AP

Rep. Kathy Manning (D-NC)

As the first woman to chair the Jewish Federations of North America, Congresswoman-elect Kathy Manning (D-NC) is no stranger to big jobs. But during orientation for newly elected members of the House of Representatives — which began last week — she’s come to terms with just how busy her schedule as a congresswoman will be.

“One of the things I’ve learned is how precious a commodity my time will be,” Manning said in an interview with Jewish Insider on Tuesday afternoon. “Because there’s so much to get done, and so many ways to approach the problems that we want to solve for the American people. So managing my time is going to be a challenge.”

With her limited time, Manning said her top priority is to assist in efforts to control the COVID-19 pandemic, but she’s also eyeing a spot on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, in part because of her commitment to and “deep knowledge” of the U.S.-Israel relationship.

“Being on that committee would allow me, I think, to stand up for what I believe is such an important relationship,” she said. 

“The other reason I find that committee interesting is that President [Donald] Trump had done a lot of damage to the relationships with our allies around the world,” Manning continued. “And it’s going to take a lot of work to rebuild those very important relationships. And I wouldn’t mind being part of that work.”

Although all incoming members of Congress are meeting together at orientation events, bipartisan cooperation for the incoming class may be hampered by coronavirus concerns.

“It’s been a little difficult to get to know the Republican members in our new class. We are trying to social distance. There have been some different approaches to mask wearing and social distancing that have made it difficult for me to get to know some members on the Republican side,” Manning said.

“On the other hand,” she added, “I have really been able to get to know and bond with the Democratic new members. And that’s been a big advantage.”

Manning was one of a small number of Democrats to flip a Republican-held House seat blue this cycle — although her victory is due in no small part to a court-mandated redrawing of the now-blue district.

Manning seemed relatively sanguine about Democrats’ losses in House and Senate races across the country, noting that many of them were in districts and states that were previously considered reliably Republican.

“They were very, very difficult races. So I think there was always a risk that we would lose some of those seats,” Manning said. “I think the good news is that we won the presidency. And that was the big prize that we were all hoping we would be able to accomplish. And we feel great about that.”

The newly elected congresswoman told JI she believes Democrats can shore up their House majority in 2022 by focusing on controlling the pandemic, facilitating better health care access, decreasing unemployment and improving education over the next two years.

Manning’s former colleagues at JFNA say she’s well placed to get things done in Congress.

“I couldn’t be more proud that a former chair, the first woman chair of JFNA, is continuing her service as an elected member of Congress,” JFNA President and CEO Eric Fingerhut, a former congressman, told JI. “It’s a testament to her leadership and that our leaders continue their love of public affairs in the elected realm. I couldn’t be more excited for her, she’ll make a great representative. It’s a moment of great pride.”

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