My former representative, Barbara Lee (D-Oakland) has been in Congress for over ten years, and during that time, she has voted for legislation based on how well it will affect the district she represents.  Now, I know when most of you think of Oakland, California, you think “the city on the other side of San Francisco” and majority African-American.  I grew up in Oakland, and it does have a sizable African-American population (30% at last count), but the other sixty is made up in representative quantities of Asians (10%) Latinos (35% or so) and Caucasians (25% or so).  So, unlike the majority of Congressional Black Caucus members, Ms. Lee’s district is not majority African-American.  Yet her votes are always putting her district first, because her district is a progressive district.  For example, the Bay Area was among the first districts to pass resolutions denouncing the Iraq War.  That’s how progressive Oakland & Berkeley is.

So when I learned she voted against the god-awful Banking Bailout Bill, I know her vote will indicate that she once again, bravely went against the tide and with good reason.  Here’s her take on why she voted against the Bail Out (Hat Tip Afro-Netizen):

“First, it does little to address the underlying problem – the foreclosure crisis. We need a moratorium on foreclosures and bankruptcy reform to help people stay in their homes.

“Second, this bill should be paid for by the high-flying industry that created this problem. $700 billion should not be given to Wall Street and the Bush Administration unless those who cause this mess pay for it. We should also prohibit the tax deductibility -and my bill the Income Equity Act (H.R. 3876) would do this across the board – of executive compensation in any company where the highest paid corporate officer is paid more than 25 the times the pay of a bailed-out company’s lowest-paid worker.

“And third, we need an economic stimulus package to deal with the crushing reality of the recession that is hitting people hard and growing every day.

“I cannot vote to reward those predatory and subprime lenders who are creating such havoc in the lives of millions of Americans.

The Congressional Black Caucus is split on this issue and they shouldn’t be.  Most of them have districts that were the hardest hit by foreclosures, job losses and any other economic calamity you can think of, yet most of them voted to pass bills like the Bail out, the equally god-awful Bankruptcy Bill a couple of years ago, and they continue to vote money to fund the clusterf–k that is the Iraq War.  The fact that majority ReThugs sent this bill to defeat only speaks to the fact they got bombarded with phone calls, emails and faxes from their districts, putting them on blast that if they voted to bail out Wall Street, they could pack up their offices in DC because they wouldn’t be returning for another term.  Boehner can blame House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s speech all he wants (like a lil’ byotch blaming his mama); guess he thought he’d break into tears on camera and ruin his make up tan and eyeliner on cue.  Let me not get started on what pissy lil’ whiny ass tittie babies the majority of the Republicans are and have been of late.

This is another reason why the CBC Monitor does what it does – we call out CBC members who would willingly screw you over in your name and hide behind Civil Rights initiatives and shyt, hoping, praying and in a lot of instances (think Harold Ford and Al Wynn) arrogantly thinking you’re too dumb to find out what they were up to…IN YOUR NAME.  The votes of Vanguards like Barbara Lee and now, Donna Edwards, lets us know what’s being done in our names.  Because they listen to us, the people they represent.  So, if you’re thinking that the Democrats tanked this Bail Out bill, just look to Barbara Lee.  Unless Congress can develop a bill that caps what CEO’s get for failure (and on most jobs you get fired for not performing, not a golden parachute), puts the burden on the welthiest 1% who can afford to pay their taxes to clean up their own mess; facilitates accountability (no more Paulson telling Congress to trust him) and so forth, any proposed legislation missing these factors is bad legislation.

I witnessed Barbara Lee cast the lone vote not to authorize money to start a war with Iraq.  She was the only member of Congress brave enough to see through Bush’s lies from day one.  As she told me in her Oakland office back in 2002, “I couldn’t authorize going to war with a country that hadn’t done anything to America, and there was no evidence Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11.”

We had this conversation at a Town Hall meeting she called back in Oakland to tell us, her constituents, how she was going to vote on the bill to authorize war with, initially, Afghanistan, but the legislation gave blanket provision to Bush to declare and wage war on whomever the hell he wanted, and not have to ask Congress for permission to do so.  She told us she was going to vote “NO” and the loud cheering she got was verification she spoke for us, then and NOW.  The ReThugs swarmed her seat like buzzards over a dead animal carcass, but we returned her to Congress at a near 90% clip.

The best gauge in Congress these days is to look at members like Barbara Lee.  Or Donna Edwards.  Russ Feingold.  Dennis Kucinich.  Bernie Sanders. Marcy Kaptor.  John Conyers. Even newcomer Keith Ellison.  If they vote “NO” when others rush to vote “YEA”, we need to find out why they’re going against the tide before pronouncing them out of step with the masses.

Often, it is with good reason and they will willingly tell us.  Hence, my short lesson on evaluating Congress and when to call them out.

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