Since the year 1998, Barbara Lee has served as the member of Congress who represents California’s Thirteenth Congressional District. She is now the African American woman who holds the highest-ranking position in Democratic Party leadership, having achieved this status by becoming the Co-Chair of the Democratic Party’s Policy and Steering Committee. She is a member of both the Appropriations Committee and the Budget Committee in addition to her work on the former committee.
Barbara Lee, who is now a member of Congress, spent her childhood in racially segregated El Paso, Texas, and received her education from the Sisters of Loretto, a religious order committed to social justice and peace.
Despite being a single mother who was responsible for sustaining her two sons, Congresswoman Lee went to Mills College. When she invited Shirley Chisholm to speak at Mills College, she was serving as president of the Black Student Union at the time. Chisholm was the first woman of African American descent to run for president.
Barbara Lee received her Master of Social Work degree from the University of California, Berkeley, where she also completed her coursework in psychiatric social work. Representative Lee founded the Community Health Alliance for Neighborhood Growth and Education (CHANGE, Inc.) when she was still a doctoral student. Since then, this group has been meeting the mental health needs of some of the most vulnerable citizens in the East Bay area.
In 1975, before becoming Ron Dellums’ chief of staff, Lee worked as an intern for him. Dellums was a representative at the time. During her eleven years working for Congressman Dellums, Lee was one of the few women and persons of color to hold a senior position on Capitol Hill. During that time, she was also employed by Congressman Dellums.
When Congresswoman Lee left the office of her colleague Congressman Dellums in 1987, she launched a facilities management business that ultimately grew to employ more than 500 people. Eventually, the company extended its operations. People from all walks of life made up Congresswoman Lee’s clientele when she had a modest company in the East Bay.
The first time Representative Lee ran for office, in 1990, she was successful in winning a seat in the California State Assembly. She remained in that body until 1996, when she was successful in winning a seat in the California State Senate. Pete Wilson, the Republican governor of California, gave his signature of approval to 67 pieces of legislation and resolutions authored by Barbara Lee, a Republican congressman. This legislation addressed a wide range of issues, including those pertaining to public health and safety, education, and the protection of the environment, to name just a few. The California Schools Hate Crimes Reduction Act was first proposed by Congresswoman Lee in 1995. At the time, she was an early supporter of LGBT rights in the legislative body. In the midst of her efforts to overturn California’s discriminatory “three strikes legislation,” Congresswoman Barbara Lee made history when she became the first African American woman of Northern California to be elected to the California State Senate. Both the California Commission on the Status of African American Males and the California Legislative Black Caucus were both formed by her, and she went on to serve as chair of both organizations. Both in Congress and in the state legislature, where she was instrumental in the passage of the first California Violence Against Women Act and where she was a member of the California Commission on the Status of Women, Lee was a stalwart supporter of women’s rights. During her time in the state legislature, she was also a member of the California Commission on the Status of Women.
In a special election held in 1998, Barbara Lee won the race to become the representative for what was then the 9th Congressional District of California but is now the 13th.
Congresswoman Barbara Lee garnered considerable attention after the sad events of September 11, 2001, when she was the only representative to vote against authorizing the use of military action in response to the attacks (AUMF). The congressman dreaded the possibility that this AUMF might be seen as a green light to continue fighting forever. As of 2013, this authorization has made it feasible to launch military actions on more than thirty separate times without consulting Congress. Rep. Lee is making an effort to get rid of this blank check so that the House of Representatives may once again utilize the constitutional responsibility that it was granted for making decisions about military and foreign affairs. In addition to this, she was a vehement opponent of the war in Iraq.
In the House of Representatives, Lee has been a strong advocate for measures that would reduce or eliminate poverty. In 2007, she was one of the several politicians that participated in the formation of the Out of Poverty Caucus. In 2013, she served as head of the Democratic Whip Task Force on Poverty and Opportunity, which she established. She has led the efforts of more than one hundred lawmakers, in her capacity as chair, to enact legislation that would assist millions of people in the United States in climbing out of poverty and into the middle class.
Since she was a member of the California assembly, Congresswoman Lee has been a stalwart supporter of HIV/AIDS research and the efforts to prevent the disease. Since she was originally elected to her position, she has authored or co-authored every significant piece of HIV/AIDS legislation, including the enabling legislation for PEPFAR and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. She has been in office for a long time. The bill that Representative Lee introduced in 2009 to establish a post at USAID for a special advisor for orphans and vulnerable children was ultimately successful in getting the legislation enacted. In 2011, Lee was one of the people who helped start the bipartisan and bicameral Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus.
At the moment, Representative Lee is an active member of the powerful Appropriations Committee, which is the body that is responsible for authorizing all expenditures made by the federal government. Member of the Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Member of the Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, and the Food and Drug Administration Chair of the State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee In January of 2021, she became the first person of color to lead the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs, making her an important figure in the annals of American history.
Rep. Lee is the most senior African American woman leader in the Democratic Party, holding the position of Co-Chair of the Democratic Party’s Policy and Steering Committee. As Co-Chair of the Democratic Caucus, Representative Lee works hard to ensure that the values and interests of the Democratic Caucus are represented in the work of the committees that she is responsible for overseeing. In addition to that, she does all in her power to spread awareness about the “For the People” initiative of the Democratic Party. She also serves as the chairwoman of the Majority Leader’s Task Force on Poverty and Opportunity in addition to being the co-chairwoman of the Pro-Choice Caucus and the cannabis caucus.