Barbara Lee (D-CA-9)
Barbara Lee California District 9
Barbara Lee, Biography from House.gov
Biography of Congresswoman Barbara Lee
Congresswoman Barbara Lee is a forceful and progressive voice in Congress, dedicated to social and economic justice, international peace, and civil and human rights.
First elected in 1998 to represent California’s 9th Congressional District, the Democratic lawmaker has established a reputation for principled and independent stands, unafraid to take on the tough issues and speak her mind for her constituents, for a more just America, and for a safer world. As a social worker by profession, being an advocate for people in dealing with the federal bureaucracy has been a priority.
She has aggressively represented the needs of the underserved and vulnerable people in her district and throughout the U.S., vigorously advocating for a wide range of social and economic concerns and bread and butter issues that affect their daily lives. She has earned a reputation as an effective legislator who works in a bipartisan manner to achieve results in congressional committees. In 2008, she authored a book about her life experiences.
The congresswoman has been a strong proponent of safe communities, affordable housing, the homeless, low income energy assistance, job training, making health care affordable and universal, just immigration policies, the establishment of a living wage, and protection of the right of women to make decisions about their reproductive health. She is the immediate past chair of the Congressional Black Caucus and former co-chair of the Progressive Caucus.
Her accomplishments are many, including authoring or co-authoring every major piece of legislation dealing with global HIV/AIDS issues since she was elected to Congress. This includes legislation that created the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria, and the position of Special Advisor for Orphans and Vulnerable Children. She has secured millions of dollars for HIV/AIDS prevention, education, treatment and care services in Alameda County.
An early and outspoken opponent of the Iraq War, the congresswoman repeatedly proposed legislation seeking early U.S. troop withdrawal. In 2007, she successfully blocked funds from being used to establish permanent military bases in Iraq. Her 2008 amendment requiring that any U.S. agreement to defend Iraq be expressly authorized by Congress or be included in a Senate approved treaty was stripped from a defense bill under the threat of a veto by President Bush.
Congresswoman Lee has been a leader in the bipartisan effort in Congress to end the ongoing genocide in Darfur, Sudan, including the passage of legislation she authored to allow divestment from companies doing business in the region.
The congresswoman has worked tirelessly to strengthen relations between the United States and its Caribbean neighbors, promoting engagement and dialogue through educational exchange programs, travel, and fair trade, including the ending of the ineffective embargo against Cuba. In 2005, she was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize along with women from 150 countries as part of the international project – 1000 Women for Peace.
Congresswoman Lee began her political career as an intern in the office of her predecessor, former Congressman and former Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums, where she eventually became his Chief of Staff. Before being elected to Congress, she served in the California State Assembly and in the California State Senate.
More Information About Congresswoman Lee
Bios By Subject Matter
Learn more about Rep. Lee’s Committee assignments, Caucus membership and leadership positions, sponsored and co-sponsored legislation, as well as find more information on the legislative processs and upcoming legislation on the House of Floor.
Learn more about Rep. Lee’s work and positions on the issues important to you.
View Rep. Lee’s recent Press Releases, News Articles, E-Newsletters, Photos, and Videos from the House floor or from recent events.
View the awards that Congresswoman Lee has received dating all the way back to 2001!
Biography from Barbara Lee for Congress
Barbara Lee was born in El Paso, Texas in 1946. Growing up in the segregated Southwest, Barbara learned at an early age the importance of standing up for one’s beliefs and of fighting for equality and other progressive causes. This courage of conviction was highlighted early in Barbara’s congressional career, when, on September 15, 2009, she stood alone in casting the only vote against authorizing the use of military force in Iraq.
Barbara’s family moved to California in 1960, where she honed her leadership for social change. As a high school student attending San Fernando High School, Barbara successfully challenged a school district policy that prevented her from trying out for the cheerleading team because of her race. With the help of the NAACP, Barbara Lee’s activism changed this discriminatory rule and she became the first black cheerleader in the history of her school district.
Barbara later moved to the San Francisco bay area so that she could attend Mills College in Oakland. During college, she quickly became a leader in the region’s vibrant civil rights movement—being elected president of the Black Students’ Association. Her commitment as a community activist led her to get involved in Representative Shirley Chisholm’s campaign for president. Representative Chisholm was the first African American woman to run for president and she would become a strong role model, friend and mentor to Barbara in the years ahead.
Upon receiving her Bachelor of Arts degree from Mills College, Barbara enrolled in the University of California at Berkeley’s School of Social Welfare, where she trained in clinical psychology. During her clinical internship at Highland Hospital’s inpatient psychiatric ward, Barbara found that the hospital lacked approaches tailored to meet the health needs of its African American patients. Based on this experience, she founded and managed the Community Health Alliance for Neighborhood Growth and Education (CHANGE), a community-based mental health clinic in Berkeley, California.
Acting on the advice she received from Representative Chisholm to “get involved”, Barbara applied to become a congressional intern through the program called Cal in the Capitol. She was assigned to the office of then-Congressman Ron Dellums—a place she would spend the next decade of her life in service to her community. During her tenure working for the Congressman, Barbara Lee worked on Capitol Hill and in the Oakland district office. Eventually, she became the Congressman’s Administrative Assistant, before leaving the staff to start her own small business.
Barbara’s own political career began in 1990, when she won election to the California State Assembly. Six years later, she would be elected to the State Senate. Barbara proved very skillful in her ability to forge coalitions and get her legislation signed into law, even by a Republican governor. In total, Barbara authored 67 bills that were signed into law. Her legislative efforts focused on issues such as education, public safety, environmental protection, health, labor, and women’s rights. In addition, Barbara worked to promote links between California and African countries.
Upon the retirement of Congressman Dellums in February 1998, Barbara Lee ran to succeed her former boss in the House of Representatives. In a special election held in April 1998, she won convincingly, receiving over 67% of the vote. She has been re-elected six times since, despite predictions that her “lone vote” against going to war in 2001 would doom her political career.
Barbara Lee has proven to be an effective leader within the United States Congress, championing legislation to fight poverty, eradicate HIV/AIDS, and bring universal healthcare to uninsured Americans. Congresswoman Lee received worldwide attention for casting the only vote in opposition to granting President George W. Bush authority to use start military actions – anywhere – in the wake of the tragedy on September 11, 2001.
In 2008, she was elected Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus and also co-founded the Congressional Out of Poverty Caucus. Barbara is also a member and former Co-Chair of the Progressive Caucus.
In recognition of her leadership, she has received hundreds of accolades throughout her career including the 2009 International Woman of Courage Award given by the U.S. State Department. In 2005, she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize along with women from 150 countries as part of the international project, 1000 Women for Peace.
Barbara is also an accomplished author, having written dozens of newspaper columns and magazine articles. Her first book, Renegade for Peace and Justice: Congresswoman Barbara Lee Speaks for Me, was published in 2008.
Barbara Lee is a proud grandmother to five children. She resides in Oakland, California.
Do you know where you still on the political spectrum? See “Political Beliefs, Where Are You” to find out where you stand.