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Biography Barbara Lee

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Barbara Lee Barbara Lee
Barbara Lee
U.S. Representative for California, serving East Bay voters from 1998 to 2013 - member of the Democratic Party.


Barbara Lee Biography

ENG: Barbara Jean Lee (born July 16, 1946) is the U.S. Representative for California's 13th congressional district, serving East Bay voters from 1998 to 2013 during a time when the region was designated California's 9th congressional district. She is a member of the Democratic Party. She was the first woman to represent the 9th district and is also the first woman to represent the 13th district. Lee was the Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus and was the Co-Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Lee is notable as the only member of either house of Congress to vote against the authorization of use of force following the September 11, 2001 attacks. This made her a hero among many in the anti-war movement. Lee has been a vocal critic of the war in Iraq and supports legislation creating a Department of Peace.


Early life and education

Lee was born Barbara Jean Tutt in El Paso, Texas, the daughter of Mildred Adaire (née Parish) and Garvin Alexander Tutt, a Lieutenant Colonel. According to a DNA analysis, she descended, mainly, from people of Guinea-Bissau and Sierra Leone. She moved from Texas to California in 1960 with her military family parents, and attended San Fernando High School in San Fernando, California. She was a young single mother of two receiving public assistance when she began attending college. Lee was educated at Mills College and received an M.S.W. from the University of California, Berkeley 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. As a staffer to Representative Dellums, she traveled to Grenada to have the government there vet the report Representative Dellums planned to present to Congress. In the report Representative Dellums planned to state that the airport would not pose a military threat to United States national security. As noted in Destructive Generation: Second Thoughts About the '60 on page 163, "Another document retrieved after Grenada's liberation provided he postscript. In a diary entry dated March 22, 1980, Grenadian Defense Minister Liam James had written: "The Revo[lution] has been able to crush counter revolution internationally. Airport will be used by Cuban and Soviet military."" 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.)


AUMF opposition

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 "warned her colleagues to be 'careful not to embark on an open-ended warbwith neither an exit strategy nor a focused target.'" Lee 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. Although it appears to have reflected the beliefs of the majority of her constituents, the majority of responses from elsewhere in the nation were angry and hostile, some referring to her as "communist" and "traitor". Many of the responses included death threats against her or her family to the point 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.


Other positions

Lee's opposition to the death penalty was recognized in 2002 by Death Penalty Focus, when they presented her with the Mario Cuomo Act of Courage Award. Lee voted against the Iraq War Resolution in 2002. Lee was one of the 31 who voted in the House to not count the electoral votes from Ohio in the 2004 presidential election.

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. This act 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, 2009 Lee was one of 36 Representatives to vote "nay" on House Resolution 867, which condemned the UN's Goldstone Report. Lee was strongly critical of the Stupak-Pitts Amendment, which places restrictions on health insurance plans providing coverage for abortions in the context of the Affordable Health Care for America Act.

Although Lee is considered a liberal Democrat, she has occasionally split with members of her own party throughout her Congressional career, especially on foreign policy matters. She voted in favor of limiting military operations in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, against authorizing air strikes, and in favor of a Republican-backed plan to completely withdraw U.S. troops from the operation, all in 1999. Lee was one of only 46 Democrats to vote for the Online Freedom of Speech Act of 2005. Lee was one of only 13 Democrats to vote against an emergency supplemental appropriations bill in 2007 which, among other things, funded the war in Iraq but required withdrawal of U.S. forces to begin by October 1. However, Lee voted in favor of overriding President Bush's veto of the measure on May 2. Lee voted to withdraw troops from Afghanistan in 2010 and 2011. Lee also voted in favor of similar resolutions involving troop withdrawal from Pakistan and, most recently, Libya. Lee also joined her Republican colleagues, one of 70 Democrats to do so, in voting against a resolution to authorize limited use of force in Libya. Lee was also one of only 36 Democrats to vote in favor of limiting funds appropriated for military operations in Libya.


Personal life and public image

Lee has two grown sons, Tony and Craig, both of whom work in the insurance industry. Tony Lee is the CEO of Dickerson Employee Benefits one of the nation's largest African-American owned insurance brokerage/consulting firms. Craig Lee is a long term senior executive at State Farm.

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

Lee was ranked as the sixth-most Progressive 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.

In 2003, she was awarded 'special recognition' as a Woman of Peace at the Global Exchange Human Rights Awards in San Francisco with Bianca Jagger, Arundhati Roy and Kathy Kelly.

In 2010, Lee took the food stamp challenge and also appeared in the documentary film Food Stamped.





February 13, 2013

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