California Democrat Rep. Barbara Lee has been elected by her peers to be the new chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) for the 111th Congress. Lee will succeed outgoing chairwoman Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick of Michigan. The Congressional Black Caucus is the association of Black members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate, and has grown considerably as a key voting bloc in the Democratic Caucus in recent years. The CBC has a not-for-profit research arm, the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, which issues policy reports and sponsors the CBC’s annual legislative caucus in September.
Kilpatrick announced, “Congresswoman Barbara Lee has been unanimously elected to serve as the 21st Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. A stalwart for human rights, global peace, and social justice, Representative Lee is an acclaimed legislator. As first Vice-Chair of the CBC, she was one of the architects of the outreach strategy and led the charge to pass legislation removing Nelson Mandela from the U.S. terrorist list. I am honored to hand the mantel of CBC leadership to Chairwoman-elect Barbara Lee. I am confident she will lead the CBC in the 111th Congress.”
Lee gained national attention when she singularly opposed the Bush administration’s use of force in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. She was a defiant in her opposition to the Iraq War despite the rush by her colleagues in the House to support the measure to authorize the President to use force out of fear of being labeled anti-patriotic. Her stand provoked a primary challenge from within her party in her re-election bid that she successfully beat back. She also received death threats and was widely ridiculed by conservative pundits for her stand against the war. Lee has been vindicated by not only her re-election to office but by the shift in public opinion toward the Bush White House’s policies on terrorism and the Iraq War.
Rep. Lee has served as the First Vice-Chairwoman of the Caucus and takes over at a time when the Black members of Congress will have unprecedented influence in the Democratic Caucus due to their seniority, committee positions, significant numbers relative to the Democratic majority and the election of the nation’s first Black President.
In accepting the support of her colleagues Rep. Lee remarked, “I want to thank Chairwoman Kilpatrick who has done a phenomenal job in keeping our caucus together and for the many legislative victories achieved under her leadership and to congratulate our newly elected officers. The 111th Congress will not only present unique and difficult challenges, but also historic opportunities for our caucus.”
Also elected to leadership posts in the CBC for the 111th Congress was Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO) as First Vice Chairman, Rep. Donna Christian-Christensen (D-VI) as Second Vice Chairwoman, Rep. G.K. Butterfield as Secretary (D-NC) and Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-NY) as Whip.
Current Chairwoman added “Congratulations and a special prayer to the new leaders of the CBC. The 111th Congress will be historic. President-elect Barack Obama will be the 44th President of the United States. The CBC welcomes the opportunity to work with the new President and our colleagues in Congress to build a new America.”