Abraham joined Bush’s Cabinet slate only two months after losing his Senate seat to Democrat Debbie Stabenow by a margin of less than 50,000 votes. Until his defeat, the 48-year-old Abraham was the only American of Arabic descent in the Senate.
Bush hailed Abraham as “a veteran of the White House” and said he would be “an effective member of my cabinet.”
When he entered Congress in 1994, Abraham was the first Republican elected to the Senate from Michigan in 22 years. Since then he made a name for himself on immigration, technology, tax cuts, conservative social issues and a GOP proposal for prescription drug coverage.
As a member and later chairman of the immigration subcommittee, Abraham fought to increase the number of skilled workers allowed into the country. His largely successful efforts to increase the number of visas available for skilled immigrants have won him allies and strong financial backing from high-tech businesses.
The freshman Senator also emerged as a leader in tax reform. During Bob Dole’s 1996 bid for president, Abraham was one of the architects of his plan to slash the federal income tax by 15 percent.
The grandson of Lebanese immigrants, Abraham was raised in East Lansing, the home of Michigan State University.
After earning a law degree at Harvard University, Abraham worked as a pollster, a part-time law professor, as the state GOP chair, a top aide for Vice President Dan Quayle and co-chairman of the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee.