Barbara Lee

U.S. Representative from California

Barbara Jean Lee (née Tutt; born July 16, 1946) is an American politician serving as the U.S. Representative for California's 13th congressional district. Now in her 12th congressional term, Lee has served since 1998, and is a former Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus (2009–2011), the current whip and former co-Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (2005–2009), the Vice Chair and a founding member of the LGBT Equality Caucus. Lee has played a major role in the antiwar movement, notable for her vocal criticism of the Iraq War and for being the only member of Congress to vote against the authorization of use of force following the September 11 attacks.

You can cut up to 40 or 50 percent out of the Pentagon budget and still have strong national security... when you look at where people are on military policy and domestic policy—when it comes to making sure that these unauthorized wars, these forever wars, stop—the public is with us.

QuotesEdit

 
We know how to lead... We know how to help regain the soul of America...
  • It’s important that we leave our caucus unified, because it’s Democrats who are going to save the soul of America... You heard and saw what took place (in the race)... That’s something that women, especially women of color and African American women, have to face... That’s nothing new. It’s here, it’s everywhere. But I think we did a great job... We still have many glass ceilings to break.
    • Quoted in Rep. Barbara Lee narrowly defeated in bid for House Dem leadership job, by Tal Kopan San Francisco Chronicle (28 Nov 2018)
  • God, help has finally arrived. I am telling you, it’s been mighty lonely here... Some people say, ‘Don’t you get tired, or aren’t you going to give up? Wait a minute. I’m a black woman in America. You don’t get tired. You just keep at it until justice is done and until you get the job done.
    • Quoted in 'Not so lonely anymore: Barbara Lee no longer a team of one on war powers' by Tal Kopan San Francisco Chronicle (20 July 2019)
  • I think you have a convergence, or a confluence, that represents the intersectional nature of where people are in terms of economic security, racial justice, and social justice... There have been a lot of them working on a variety of military budget issues, police issues, justice issues. Now, I think they’re all coming together... it’s clear that people are hurting very badly. And, yet, they are told that “Well, the resources just aren’t there.” And of course we know that Republicans got their tax cuts, but the resources are really also within the Pentagon in terms of their wasteful spending... So I think connecting the two is what is taking place now, as people are suffering and living on the edge in such a profound way... the movement is really pushing the Congress and saying, “We need resources for our domestic priorities and investments in our domestic priorities… You can cut up to 40 or 50 percent out of the Pentagon budget and still have strong national security. So 10 percent is for starters, but it’s great, and I’m so glad we got there—because this $73 or $74 billion is badly needed today in our communities, and that doesn’t even scratch the surface... When you look at polling data, when you look at where people are on military policy and domestic policy—when it comes to making sure that these unauthorized wars, these forever wars, stop—the public is with us.
  • The Democratic Party needs to learn that it’s got to be inclusive and democratic, which means listening to different points of view from young people, from the Movement for Black Lives, from our Dreamers, from all of our young people throughout the country—and to know that even though their proposals may be bold and different and visionary, hey, you’ve got to embrace visionary and bold ideas now if you really want systemic change.
  • Among my top priorities on this committee will be investing in diplomacy, foreign assistance, and development programs, which must be at the forefront of our approach, leaving behind the military first approach of the last 4 years... It’s also critical that we reinvest in the State Department and work to ensure our diplomatic corps and all aspects of our international affairs reflect the diversity of the country... This is a critical time for global investment and cooperation as we fight back a global pandemic, and we have much work to do.

Quotes about Barbara LeeEdit

  • Oakland Rep. Barbara Lee was narrowly defeated Wednesday in her bid to break into House Democratic leadership, a loss she blamed on barriers for women of color. Democratic incumbents and incoming members who were elected this month voted behind closed doors for New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries over Lee for party caucus chair. The vote was 123 to 113. The contest for the Democrats’ No. 5 job pitted the progressive Lee, who would have been the first African American woman elected to the House hierarchy of either party.. Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, said... members should have the “courage” to make their votes public. “It was very disappointing... because I think Barbara Lee has shown extraordinary leadership in her career... It’s about time that we have to say what we mean and mean what we say, which means rather than have secret ballots we should have public ballots... Because there’s this game that some of my colleagues play where they say one thing to one member and then say something to another member.”
    • Rep. Barbara Lee narrowly defeated in bid for House Dem leadership job, by Tal Kopan San Francisco Chronicle (28 Nov 2018)
  • She’s involved in the weeds of policy, she’s a coalition builder, she has respect for the institution, and yet is a change-maker,” he said. “She’s really someone who could be a role model to frankly a lot of the next generation of the members of Congress.”
    • Ro Khanna quoted in 'Not so lonely anymore: Barbara Lee no longer a team of one on war powers' San Francisco Chronicle (20 July 2019)
  • She was...the only member of Congress to vote against authorizing the United States to go to war. It earned her death threats and tens of thousands of pieces of hate mail. But nearly 20 years later, her Democratic colleagues and advocates call it one of her most prescient and career-defining votes, as Congress comes closer to finally achieving her goal: repealing the blank check she believes lawmakers gave to presidents to wage war in the name of fighting terrorism.
    • Tal Kopan, 'Not so lonely anymore: Barbara Lee no longer a team of one on war powers', San Francisco Chronicle, (20 July 2019)
  • Lee said she was all for responding to the Sept. 11 attacks that killed more than 3,000 people, but worried the authorization was too open-ended and was being rushed through Congress at an emotional time. Trained in psychiatric social work, Lee said she knew that “when you’re angry, when you’re sad, when you’re emotional, when you’re frustrated ... you don’t make hard decisions. That’s Psychology 101.”
    In a speech on the House floor, Lee implored her colleagues to “just pause, just for a minute, and think through the implications of our actions today, so that this does not spiral out of control.” Her plea went unheeded.... The first call she received after the vote was from her father, a retired Army lieutenant colonel, who told her always to look for alternatives to putting American troops’ lives at risk. “He told me, ‘That was the right vote, and you’re going to catch hell, but stand strong. You’re doing this for our troops, you’re doing this for the country,’” Lee said.
    • 'Not so lonely anymore: Barbara Lee no longer a team of one on war powers' by Tal Kopan, San Francisco Chronicle, (20 July 2019)
  • Her lonely (2001) vote and her standing there was something that impacted me when I was in middle school, high school. It was our generation that was sent to war. ... The weight of those decisions is very much on our shoulders. And highlighting that, her exhibiting her courage in that moment, it certainly comforts me in moments I cast lonely votes.
    • Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez quoted in 'Not so lonely anymore: Barbara Lee no longer a team of one on war powers' San Francisco Chronicle (20 July 2019)
  • On September 14, 2001, three days after New York City’s Twin Towers were leveled by two hijacked airliners... Congress met to consider President George W. Bush’s request to wage war against the perpetrators. On the floor of Congress, speaker after speaker echoed the hurt, outrage, anger, and shock of a wounded nation. A flood of countrywide sentiment demanded action. Every single member of Congress—the House and the Senate—concurred. Almost. The vote in the House on the expanded wars act was 420 to 1. At this time of crisis, when there was much pain alongside many acts of heroism, one stood alone. Congresswoman Barbara Lee of California’s 13th District... voted against war. As Lee addressed Congress that fateful day, she spoke from her conscience, from her heart. She warned... “Let us not act so that we become the evil that we deplore.” ...For her calm, measured act of reason, which proved prescient, Lee received a torrent of harsh criticism, cruel words, and death threats. For the following weeks, she had to be blanketed by Secret Service agents for protection... This singular, lonely act of courage helped define Congresswoman Barbara Lee. But it should not overshadow a remarkable life and exemplary career both before and after her stand alone.
  • Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) was named the Chair of the House Appropriations subcommittee on State and Foreign Affairs (SFOPS), on Monday. Chairwoman Lee is the first African American to serve as chair to the powerful committee, which has jurisdiction over the country’s nondefense international affairs. She says she will focus on reinvesting in the State Department.
  • As military historian and retired career officer Andrew Bacevich notes, “... US troops are still present in something like 140 countries; Pentagon and national security state spending continues to increase astronomically.” When the National Defense Authorization Act for the next fiscal year came before Congress this summer, Senator Bernie Sanders proposed a modest 10 percent reduction in military spending so $70 billion could be re-directed to domestic programs. Representative Barbara Lee introduced a House resolution calling for $350 billion worth of DOD cuts. Neither proposal has gained much traction, even among Democrats on Capitol Hill. Instead, the House Armed Services Committee just voted 56 to 0 to spend $740.5 billion on the Pentagon in the coming year...

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