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Barbara Jean Lee (born July 16, 1946), is an Americanmarker politician, and has been a Democratic member of the United States House of Representatives since 1998, representing . She is the first woman to represent that district. Lee is the Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus and was the Co-Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Lee is notable as the only person in either chamber of Congress who voted against the authorization of use of force following the September 11, 2001 attacks. This made her a hero among the anti-war movement. Lee has been a vocal critic of the war in Iraq and supports legislation creating a Department of Peace.

Biography

Early life and education

Congresswoman Lee was born in El Paso, Texasmarker. She moved from Texasmarker to Californiamarker in 1960 with her military family parents, and attended San Fernando High School, San Fernando, Californiamarker. She was a young single mother of two receiving public assistance when she began attending college. Lee was educated at Mills Collegemarker and received an M.S.W. from the University of California, Berkeleymarker in 1975.

Political career

While a student at Mills College, she was a volunteer at the Oakland chapter of the Black Panther Party's Community Learning Center and worked on Panther co-founder Bobby Seale's 1973 Oakland mayoral campaign. Lee was a staff member for United States Representative Ron Dellums and a member of the California State Assembly and the California State Senate before entering the House. She ran for Congress in a special election that created a year-long series of five special elections as various East Bay politicians vied for political office. (For a detailed account of these elections, see Special election musical chairs.)

Lee gained national attention in 2001 as the only member of congress to vote "No" on the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists (AUMF), stating that she voted no not because she opposed military action but because she believed the AUMF, as written, granted overly-broad powers to wage war to the president at a time when the facts regarding the situation were not yet clear. She explained "It was a blank check to the president to attack anyone involved in the September 11 events—anywhere, in any country, without regard to our nation's long- term foreign policy, economic and national security interests, and without time limit. In granting these overly broad powers, the Congress failed its responsibility to understand the dimensions of its declaration.... The president has the constitutional authority to protect the nation from further attack and he has mobilized the armed forces to do just that. The Congress should have waited for the facts to be presented and then acted with fuller knowledge of the consequences of our action."

This vote made nationwide news reports and brought about a large and extremely polarized response, with the volume of calls gridlocking the switchboard of her Capitol Hill office. While it appears to have reflected the beliefs of the majority of her constituents, the majority of responses from elsewhere in the nation were angry, some referring to her as "communist" and "traitor". Enough responses included death threats against her or her family that the Capitol Police provided round-the-clock plainclothes bodyguards. She was also criticized by politicians and in editorial pages of conservative-leaning newspapers, e.g. John Fund's column in The Wall Street Journal.

Lee was one of the 31 who voted in the House to not count the electoral vote from Ohiomarker in the 2004 presidential election [49019].

Lee is the author of the Shirley A. Chisholm United States-Caribbean Educational Exchange Act, H.R. 176, which would enhance U.S. foreign relations with CARICOM nations. The bill directs the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to develop a comprehensive program that extends and expands existing primary and secondary school initiatives in the Caribbean to provide: (1) teacher training methods; and (2) increased community involvement in school activities. The bill is named for former Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, who helped inspire Lee to become involved in politics when Chisholm ran for the Democratic nomination for President; Lee became the Northern California Chair of the Chisholm campaign.

She hinted to the Oakland Tribune that she would run for the leadership of the Congressional Black Caucus in September 2008, following the end of her four-year term as co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. On September 29, 2008, Lee was one of 95 Democrats to vote against the defeated Emergency Economic Stabilization Act. However, she voted for a modified version on October 3.

On November 4, 2009 Lee voted "no" on House Resoultion 867, which condemned the UN's Goldstone Report as irredeemably biased and unworthy of Obama Administration support.Lee was strongly critical of the Stupak-Pitts Amendment, which places limits on taxpayer-funded abortions in the context of the November 2009 Affordable Health Care for America Act.

Personal life and public image

Lee has two grown sons, Tony and Craig, both of whom work in the insurance industry. Tony is a partner in Dickerson Employee Benefits, one of the most successful, and the largest African-American owned insurance brokerage consulting firm in the United States.

Lee endorsed Senator Barack Obama for President in the 2008 primary.

Lee was ranked as the sixth-most liberal member of the House by the National Journal, based on roll-call votes on economic, social and foreign policy issues in 2006. Lee received a 97% progressive rating from "The Progressive Punch," and a 4% conservative rating from the American Conservative Union.

Committee Assignments



Caucuses



Electoral History

References

  1. Final Vote Results for Roll Call 342, U.S. House of Representatives. Accessed 7 April 2007.
  2. East Bay Daily News, November 16, 2006
  3. San Francisco Chronicle Profile September 26, 2001
  4. University of California, Berkeley
  5. Oakland Tribune, October 8, 2006
  6. Lee, Barbara. "Why I opposed the resolution to authorize force" San Francisco Chronicle September 23, 2001.
  7. Wall Street Journal, September 17, 2001
  8. Search Results - THOMAS (Library of Congress)
  9. Richman, Josh. "Barbara Lee makes move for Black Caucus chair" Oakland Tribune, September 25, 2008
  10. Health care bill reignites abortion debate
  11. Rep. Barbara Lee: Today I Endorsed Barack Obama - Politics on The Huffington Post
  12. National Journal "liberal" ranking


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