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Biography | Posted: Sunday, 2nd August

Karen Bass (American politician) Bio, Facts. 

Karen Bass
Born Name: Karen Ruth Bass
Date of Birth: October 3, 1953
Place of Birth: Los Angeles, California, United States
Political party: Democratic
Spouse(s): Jesus Lechuga (m. 1980; div. 1986)
Children: 1 daughter, 4 stepchildren
Education: California State University, Dominguez Hills (BS)
University of Southern California (MSW)
Karen Ruth Bass (born October 3, 1953) is an American politician serving as the U.S. Representative for California's 37th congressional district since 2013. From 2011 to 2013, she was the U.S. Representative for California's 33rd congressional district. A member of the Democratic Party, she previously served for six years in the California State Assembly, the last two as its Speaker.

On November 28, 2018, Bass was elected chair of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) during the 116th Congress. She also serves as Chair of the United States House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations and United States House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security.

Before her election to Congress, Bass represented the 47th district in the California State Assembly (2004–2010). In 2008, she was elected to serve as the 67th Speaker of the California State Assembly, becoming the first African American woman in United States history to serve as a Speaker of a state legislative body. For her leadership during the worst recession California had faced since the Great Depression, she, alongside three other legislative leaders with whom she worked, was awarded the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award in 2010. Bass is on the shortlist to become Joe Biden's vice-presidential running mate in 2020.

Early life and education
Bass was born in Los Angeles, California, the daughter of Wilhelmina (née Duckett) and DeWitt Talmadge Bass.[unreliable source?] Her father was a postal letter carrier and her mother was a homemaker. She was raised in the Venice and Fairfax neighborhoods of Los Angeles and graduated from Alexander Hamilton High School in 1971.

Witnessing the civil rights movement on television with her father as a child sparked her interest in community activism. While in middle school, Bass began volunteering for Bobby Kennedy's presidential campaign. In the mid-1970's she was an organizer for the Venceremos Brigade, a pro-Cuban group.

She went on to study philosophy at San Diego State University, and graduated from the USC Keck School of Medicine Physician Assistant Program. She then earned a bachelor of science degree in health sciences from California State University, Dominguez Hills. She also received her master's in social work from the University of Southern California.

Community Coalition and the crack cocaine epidemic
In the 1980s, while working as a physician assistant and a clinical instructor at the Keck School of Medicine of USC Physician Assistant Program, Bass witnessed the impact of the crack epidemic in South Los Angeles. After attending "Crack: The Death of a Race", a San Francisco conference hosted by Cecil Williams, she decided to organize a response.

In the late 1980s, Bass and other local community organizers founded Community Coalition, an organization with a mission to help transform the social and economic conditions in South Los Angeles that foster addiction, crime, violence, and poverty by building a community institution that involves thousands in creating, influencing, and changing public policy.

Since its founding, Community Coalition has blocked the construction of liquor stores and encouraged construction of small businesses, affordable housing, and nonprofits. It has also secured funding for low-income students in middle and high schools in Los Angeles Unified School District.

California Assembly
In 2004, Bass was elected to represent California's 47th Assembly district. At her inauguration, she became the only African-American woman serving in the state legislature.

Leadership prior to speaker election
Speaker Fabian Núñez appointed Bass California State Assembly majority whip for the 2005–06 legislative session and majority floor leader for the 2007–08 legislative session. During her first term, she founded and chaired the California Assembly Select Committee on Foster Care, implementing a host of new laws to help improve the state's foster care system and leading the effort to secure $82 million in additional funding for the state's child welfare system. Under her direction, the Select Committee passed legislation designed to improve the lives of California's most vulnerable children.

During her term as majority whip, Bass also served as vice chair of the Legislative Black Caucus. As vice chair, she commissioned the first ever "State of Black California" report, which included a statewide organizing effort to involve Black Californians in town halls in every part of the state with a prevalent Black community to solicit ideas for a legislative agenda. The result of the report was a legislative agenda for the Black community that was released during her term as majority floor leader.

Núñez termed out of the Assembly at the end of the 2007-08 session, leaving Bass as the next-highest-ranking Democrat in the Assembly. After consolidating the support of a majority of legislators, including some who had previously been planning to run for the speakership themselves, Bass was elected speaker on February 28, 2008, and sworn in on May 13, 2008.

As speaker, Bass promoted numerous laws to improve the state's child welfare system. During her first year, she ushered through expansion of Healthy Families Insurance Coverage to prevent children from going without health insurance and worked to eliminate bureaucratic impediments to the certification of small businesses. She also secured more than $2.3 million to help revitalize the historic Vision Theater in Los Angeles and more than $600 million for Los Angeles Unified School District. Bass worked with the governor and initiated the California Commission on the 21st-Century Economy to reform California's tax code. She also fought to repeal the California Citizens Redistricting Commission.

California budget crisis (2008–2010)
Bass became speaker during a period of severe economic turmoil. Negotiations over a spending plan to address a multi-billion dollar budget shortfall began the day Bass was sworn in. A statement by the John F. Kennedy Foundation included the following description of events:

In February 2009, amid one of the worst budget crises in California's history, an imploding economy, and potentially catastrophic partisan deadlock, the state's Republican and Democratic party leaders came together to address the financial emergency. After weeks of grueling negotiation, the legislative leaders and Gov. Schwarzenegger reached an agreement on a comprehensive deal to close most of a $42 billion shortfall, putting an end to years of government inaction and sidestepping of the difficult decisions necessary to address California's increasingly dire fiscal crisis. The deal was objectionable to almost everyone; it contained tax increases, which the Republicans had long pledged to oppose, and draconian spending cuts, which brought intense criticism to the Democrats. The two Republicans were ousted from their party leadership positions over the agreement. Voters defeated the budget referendum in May 2009.

In June 2009, Bass drew criticism from conservative commentators for statements she made during an interview with Los Angeles Times reporter Patt Morrison in response to a question about how conservative talk radio affected the Assembly's efforts to pass a state budget. Referencing the condemnation from conservative talk radio hosts that three Republicans experienced after they voted for a Democrat-sponsored plan to create revenue by raising taxes, Bass described the pressures Republican lawmakers face:

The Republicans were essentially threatened and terrorized against voting for revenue. Now [some] are facing recalls. They operate under a terrorist threat: "You vote for revenue and your career is over." I don't know why we allow that kind of terrorism to exist. I guess it's about free speech, but it's extremely unfair.

Bass, Dave Cogdill, Darrell Steinberg, and Michael Villines received the 2010 Profile in Courage Award for their leadership in the budget negotiations and their efforts to address the severe financial crisis. In presenting them with the award, Caroline Kennedy said:

Faced with a budget crisis of unprecedented magnitude, Karen Bass, Dave Cogdill, Darrell Steinberg and Mike Villines had the courage to negotiate with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and with each other on a compromise they believed was in the best interest of the citizens of California. Each made sacrifices, and each knew their agreement would have painful and far-reaching consequences for their constituents and for their own careers.

U.S. House of Representatives
In 2010, Congresswoman Diane Watson retired from Congress and encouraged Bass to run for her seat. Bass was ineligible to run for reelection to the State Assembly in 2010 due to California's term limits so on February 18, 2010, Bass confirmed her candidacy to represent California's 33rd congressional district.

Bass raised $932,281.19 and spent $768,918.65. Her 2010 campaign contributions came from diverse groups, with none donating more than 15% of her total campaign funds. The five major donors to her campaign were labor unions, with $101,950; financial institutions, with $90,350; health professionals, with $87,900; the entertainment industry, with $52,400; and lawyers and law firms, with $48,650.

Bass won the election with over 86% of the vote on November 2, 2010.

In redistricting following the 2010 census, the district was renumbered from 33rd to 37th. In 2012 she had no primary opponent, and won the general election with 86% of the vote. She raised $692,988.53 and spent $803,966.15, leaving $52,384.92 on hand and a debt of $3,297.59.

Bass was involved in President Barack Obama's reelection campaign. She played a leadership role in the California African Americans for Obama organization and served on Obama's national African American Leadership Council. Bass had also served as a co-chair of African Americans for Obama in California during the 2008 presidential campaign.

Bass was reelected to a third term with 84.3% of the vote.

Bass was reelected to a fourth term with 81.1% of the vote. She endorsed Hillary Clinton for president in 2015. On August 3, 2016, Bass launched a petition to have then-candidate Donald Trump psychologically evaluated, suggesting that he exhibited symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). The petition was signed by 37,218 supporters. She did not attend President Trump's inauguration after conducting a poll on Twitter.

Fueled by Trump's election and in an effort to channel Angelenos' political frustrations, Bass created the Sea Change Leadership PAC to activate, educate, and mobilize voters. She won her primary with 89.18% of the vote and was reelected to a fifth term with 88.2% of the vote.

Proposed as rival to Nancy Pelosi for House Speaker
Following the 2018 elections, Democrats had returned to being the majority party in the House of Representatives. Congressmen Seth Moulton (D-MA), and some others who felt current leadership was "too old," gathered signatures to replace Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) as the Democrats' leader. Karen Bass was their first choice as the person to take the leadership role from Pelosi.

Bass rejected the offer, however, choosing instead to support Pelosi for House Speaker. On November 28, 2018, Pelosi won the speakership on a 203-to-32 vote.

Committee assignments

  • Committee on the Judiciary
  •   Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations (Chair)
  •   Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet
  • Committee on Foreign Affairs
  •   Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights (Chair)


  • Congressional Black Caucus, Chair
  • Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth, Founder and Co-Chair
  • Congressional Coalition on Adoption (CCA)
  • American Sikh Congressional Caucus
  • Congressional Addiction, Treatment and Recovery Caucus
  • Coalition for Autism Research and Education (CARE)
  • Congressional Caucus on Black Men and Boys
  • Congressional Creative Rights Caucus
  • Congressional Diabetes Caucus
  • Congressional Entertainment Industries Caucus
  • Congressional Ethiopia Caucus
  • Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus
  • Congressional International Conservation Caucus
  • Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus
  • Congressional Library of Congress Caucus
  • Congressional Military Mental Health Caucus
  • Congressional Multiple Sclerosis Caucus
  • Congressional Quiet Skies Caucus
  • Congressional Progressive Caucus
  • Congressional Social Work Caucus
  • Congressional Valley Fever Task Force

Political positions
United States–Africa relations
Throughout her time in Congress, Bass has been the top Democrat on the United States House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations. Her goal is to transform how we engage African nations and to promote the many opportunities to expand trade and economic growth between them and the U.S. One of her key priorities was to reauthorize and strengthen the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which enables African nations to export goods to the U.S. duty-free. In 2015, Bass was instrumental in reauthorizing the bill.

Bass has advocated preventing and ending famine in Africa. In 2017, she helped secure nearly $1 billion in funds to combat famine in Nigeria, Somalia, and South Sudan. She has also introduced more than 50 bills and resolutions pertaining to democracy protection, expanding economic opportunity, and other issues in African. Bass continues to engage the African diaspora with regular popular policy breakfasts, which are open to the public.

Child welfare reform
Upon arriving in Congress, Bass founded the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth (CCFY), a bipartisan group of members of Congress that develops policy recommendations to strengthen the child welfare system. One of the group's most significant achievements was the passage of the Family First Prevention Services Act, also known as Family First, which was signed into law as part of the Bipartisan Budget Act on February 9, 2018. This reform aims to change child welfare systems across the country by addressing the top reasons children are removed from their homes and placed in foster care.

Starting in May 2012, the Caucus began hosting an annual Foster Youth Shadow Day, during which foster youth come to Washington DC for a week to learn about advocating for reforms to the child welfare system. The week culminates in Shadow Day, when participants spend a day following their member of Congress through their daily routine. Bass serves on the organization's board of directors.

Committee on Caucus Procedures
Nancy Pelosi appointed Bass to chair the Democratic Committee on Caucus and Procedures, previously known as the Committee on Oversight, Study and Review (OSR), in 2014. She served in that capacity for six years. The committee is responsible for reviewing and recommending rules for the House of Representatives Democratic caucus.

Congressional Black Caucus
Bass served as the 2nd vice chair of the Congressional Black Caucus during the 115th Congress. She was elected chair of the CBC on November 28, 2018. Her priorities include the restoration of the Voting Rights Act, reinforcement of the Affordable Care Act, lowering health care costs, comprehensive criminal justice reforms, and ensuring that more Americans learn about the CBC's actions.

Criminal justice
Bass believes that the criminal justice system is broken in part due to the disproportionate incarceration rates of poor people of color. Bass currently serves as Chair of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security. She has long called for criminal justice reform and to pay special attention to the way women are treated by the criminal justice system: how they originally entered the system, how they are treated in prison, and what happens to them after they are released.

In 2018, she voted in favor of the First Step Act, which divided Democrats and focused on rehabilitating people in prison by incentivizing them with the possibility of earlier release. Her contribution to the bill was a section addressing what she considers the inhumane practice of shackling women during pregnancy, labor and delivery.

Bass believes that climate change is one of the greatest challenges facing the country and the world. Shortly before EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt resigned, she signed a letter to Trump demanding that Pruitt be fired for ethics violations. Bass also strongly supports the Paris Climate Agreement, and was one of the first 30 members of Congress to support the Green New Deal.

Gun law
Bass's National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund Lifetime Score is an F. The Gun Owners of California Positions on Gun Rights have also given her an F. In 2010 while campaigning for Congress, Bass supported legislation that with other regulations would have required all gun dealers to report sales to the federal government.

Bass participated in the 2016 sit-in against gun violence in the House of Representatives. Democratic members of Congress adopted the slogan "No Bill, No Break" in an attempt to push the introduction of legislation making it more difficult for Americans to own guns for self-protection. Bass is strongly supports legislation to prohibit the sale, transfer, manufacture, and importation of semiautomatic weapons and ammunition-feeding devices capable of accepting more than ten rounds in the United States. In 2019, she voted in favor of legislation to require a background check for every firearm sale and to close the loophole that allowed a gun to be acquired in the Charleston church massacre.

Health care
Bass supports universal health care and was one of the founders of the Congressional Medicare for All Caucus. She has voted more than 60 times against repeal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, believing that Congress should improve it rather than repeal it.

In November 2016, Bass supported the passage of Measure HHH and Measure H, which promise billions of dollars for housing homeless individuals. She has said she believes that supporting public housing, promoting loan modifications and protecting consumers against unsustainable loans are not only necessary to help at-risk families and individuals, but fundamental for economic recovery.

In July 2018, Bass visited a federal facility used to detain migrant families and children separated from their parents after calling for the resignation of Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. She also introduced the Family Unity Rights and Protections Act, which would require the federal government to reunite families that have been forcibly separated at the border.

Affirmative action
Bass has supported a ballot proposal in California to repeal the ban on race-based admission policies.

Impeachment of Donald J. Trump
Bass voted for the proposed articles of impeachment against Trump. Of the vote, she tweeted, "He abused the power of his office. He obstructed Congress. No one is above the law."

Intellectual property
Bass is in favor of net neutrality and has supported legislation to protect the internet from attempts to roll back regulations. She supported the 2018 Music Modernization Act, which creates a formalized body, run by publishers, that administers the "mechanical licensing" of compositions hosted on music streaming services.

In 2020 Bass was one of more than 115 House Democrats who signed a letter criticizing Israel's plan to annex parts of Palestinian territory in the occupied West Bank.

Bass has fought to give tax reductions for small businesses to hire new employees, increase the flow of credit to small businesses so they can grow and create jobs, and extend the research and development tax credit that encourages innovation and job creation. She also introduced the Local Hire Act to allow cities and counties to prioritize hiring local residents for infrastructure projects. The rule resulted in new jobs in Los Angeles. In May 2018, Bass and members of the Congressional Black Caucus introduced the Jobs and Justice Act of 2018, omnibus legislation that would increase Black families' upward social mobility and help ensure equal protection under the law.

LGBTQ rights
In 2018, the Los Angeles Stonewall Democratic Club named Bass its Public Official of the Year. In 2019, she voted in favor of the Equality Act, which bans discrimination against LGBTQ people in housing, employment, education, credit and financing, and more.

Student loan debt
In 2019, Bass introduced two pieces of legislation to address student loan debt. The Student Loan Fairness Act of 2019 addresses this crisis in three major ways: creating a new "10-10" standard, capping the interest rate, and accounting for cost of living. With Danny Davis, she also introduced the Financial Aid Fairness for Students (FAFSA) Act, which would repeal a law that makes it all but impossible for people with a drug conviction to receive federal financial aid for higher education.

Bass is considered a liberal in her fiscal positions. She has a rating of 10% from the conservative California Tax Payers Association. The more liberal Consumer Federation of California gives her very high ratings. Bass has supported keeping taxes low for the middle class and "tax credits for small businesses to hire new employees". She has said that the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy should expire. In 2017, she voted against the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, citing its disproportionate impact on California's middle-class families.

George Floyd Justice in Policing Act
After the death of George Floyd and massive protests around the US, Bass co-authored (with Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY)) the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020, which would restrain some police practices and make it easier to prosecute police if they break the law. The bill would ban chokeholds, carotid holds, and no-knock warrants.

According to ABC News:

The bipartisan vote was 236-181 to approve the measure, the most sweeping federal intervention into law enforcement in years. It would eliminate legal protections that shield police officers from lawsuits, make it easier to prosecute them for wrongdoing, impose a new set of restrictions on the use of deadly force, and effectively ban the use of chokeholds

The bill passed the House June 25, 2020, but is not expected to pass the Senate.

Possible Democratic VP choice in 2020 Presidential election
In July, 2020, Bass began to be widely discussed as a potential running mate for Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden.

Personal life
From 1980 to 1986, Bass was married to Jesus Lechuga. Following their divorce, Bass and Lechuga jointly raised their daughter and her siblings, Bass's four stepchildren, Scythia, Omar, Yvette, and Ollin, together. Her daughter, Emilia Bass-Lechuga, and son-in-law, Michael Wright, were killed in a car accident in 2006.

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