Congresswoman Barbara Lee

Representing the 13th District of California

Full Biography

Congresswoman Barbara Lee is a forceful and progressive voice in Congress, dedicated to social and economic justice, international peace, and civil and human rights.Rep. Lee in High School

First elected in 1998 to represent California’s then-9th Congressional District (now the 13th), 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 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. In 2007, Congresswoman Lee (D-CA) joined with members of the Congressional Black Caucus, Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA) of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus and Rep. Joe Baca of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus to form the Congressional Out of Poverty Caucus (COPC).  The Congressional Out of Poverty Caucus seeks to bring together lawmakers, organizations, community leaders, and other key stakeholders to find concrete solutions to end poverty.  The COPC is committed to increasing awareness about and finding bi-partisan legislative solutions to eliminating poverty in the United States.

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 a Senior Democratic Whip, former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus and former co-chair of the Progressive Caucus.

In 2013, Congresswoman Lee became chair of the Whip's Task Force on Poverty and Opportunity. The mission of the Task Force is to raise the awareness of Members of Congress and the American people about the ongoing crisis of poverty, the positive human and economic impacts of reducing and eliminating poverty, as well as the need for a comprehensive national effort to eradicate poverty and remove barriers to opportunity that prevent low-income Americans from reaching the middle class.

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.

She gained national attention in 2001 as the only member of both chambers of Congress to vote against the Authorization for Use of Military Force in the wake of the horrific events of September 11th.  As 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. Rep. Lee at War on Poverty 50th AnniversaryHer 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. In September of 2013, President Obama nominated Congresswoman Lee to be a Representative of the United States to the Sixty-eighth Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations, making her the first African American woman to hold that position. 

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.

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.