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Playing Partisan From Her Hill Perch

Bill Clark/Roll Call

Wasserman Schultz is already used to being on the front lines of the bitter partisan battle that dominates Washington culture most days. She has become a near-constant presence on cable television news and earned the reputation of a feared debater, having been dubbed “The Pistol” by former Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.).

In a wide-ranging interview Friday morning, she vacillated between someone who called for mutual respect in politics and someone who suggested Republicans want to put illegal immigrants on rafts and the elderly out on the streets.

“It’s important not to see our opponents as the enemy. They’re people we disagree with much of the time, but not all of the time,” she said. “And finding common ground is really important. I really always try to look for the way I can reach across the aisle and find agreement.”

But Wasserman Schultz also defended her recent statement that the House Republican plan to reshape Medicare is a “death trap” for seniors.

“While some might think that word choices are too strong at times, people have a lot going on in their lives, they hear a lot of people saying a lot of things on the TV news and in the newspapers they read. Sometimes when you have an outrageous proposal, it’s important to call it like it is so that you can call people’s attention to it.”

She described House Republicans’ effort to cut funding from Planned Parenthood and restrict taxpayer funding for abortion as beyond outrageous.

“I don’t think they have much respect for women. I don’t think they care about women’s priorities,” she said, calling it “a flagrant assault on women.”

Wasserman Schultz suddenly finds herself as the most prominent woman in Democratic politics, the new face of the party in a way that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) is not. Wasserman Schultz may be an aggressive politician, but she is also someone who spends part of each week making lunches and watching youth sports back in Florida.

A recent New York Times article included a photo of the Congresswoman in her kitchen, clad in pink pajamas, pushing to get her children off to school.

Wasserman Schultz is a quarter-century younger than Pelosi and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, whom Wasserman Schultz supported for president during the long 2008 primary search.

Her role at the DNC is a consolation prize of sorts. She wanted to lead the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee but was passed over by Pelosi in favor of Rep. Steve Israel (N.Y.)

Wasserman Schultz was a fundraising force for House Democrats. She planned to raise $4 million for the committee this cycle, a target that exceeded those of all but three other Caucus members. And she confirmed Friday that she is in the process of moving a personal fundraising staffer previously assigned to the DCCC to the DNC.

“I certainly wouldn’t overstate my importance,” she said. “We’ve got a significant leadership team at the DCCC, and they’re going to do just fine.”

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