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Rep. Barbara Lee Urges Biden to Resist Increase in U.S. Defense Spending in 2023 Budget Request

Dated March 25, 2022, the letter read: “We support your strategic response to Russia so far, and we look forward to continuing to work with you in the pursuit of peace in the region. As you prepare your fiscal year 2023 budget request, we know some members of Congress will seek an increase in defense spending. Respectfully, we ask that you do everything in your power to resist such increases,” the lawmakers wrote. 

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Representatives Barbara Lee and Mark Pocan, co-chairs and founders of the Defense Spending Reduction Caucus, sent a letter to President Biden urging him to resist pressures to increase defense spending in his Fiscal Year 2023 budget request.

Dated March 25, 2022, the letter read:

“We support your strategic response to Russia so far, and we look forward to continuing to work with you in the pursuit of peace in the region. As you prepare your fiscal year 2023 budget request, we know some members of Congress will seek an increase in defense spending. Respectfully, we ask that you do everything in your power to resist such increases,” the lawmakers wrote. 

“You resisted calls for historic increases…in your first budget, and you requested $753 billion in defense spending. The U.S. House of Representatives more than doubled your desired increase and included $768.2 billion in the House-passed National Defense Authorization Act.

Ultimately, in the omnibus appropriation legislation signed into law earlier this week, the new enacted defense spending level is $782 billion…” they continued.

“Some of our colleagues will continue to seek virtually unlimited amounts of funding for the Department of Defense, no matter the Department’s own assessments of its needs for the coming fiscal year.

“This mission creep is dangerous to peace-seeking efforts, and it will continue to starve our domestic priorities of needed funding.”

Click here to read the letter as delivered.

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Activism

Respect for Marriage Act Passes in U.S. House with Help from Bay Area Representatives

California District 13 Rep. Barbara Lee, who voted for the bill, also stated it was “a key step forward in House Democrats’ fight against the right-wing assault on freedom.”  Representative Eric Swalwell of District 15, which includes cities of Dublin, San Ramon, Livermore and Hayward simply tweeted, “Kevin McCarthy and the majority of @HouseGop just voted against same-sex marriage. As backwards as they are, we are not going backwards with them.”

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Tweet from U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington. Twitter photo.
Tweet from U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington. Twitter photo.

By Sarah Clemens, Oakland Post Intern

The House passed the Respect for Marriage Act on July 19, 2022. The bill, which was originally introduced in 2009, would repeal the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act and recognize same-sex marriage on a federal level.

The reintroduction of this bill comes not long after Justice Clarence Thomas’ called for Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 landmark Supreme Court ruling that declared the right for same-sex marriage in every state, to be overturned. Thomas declared Obergefell v. Hodges, along with other landmark rulings, to be “demonstrably erroneous decisions.”

While all of the House Democrats voted for the bill, it also garnered some bipartisan support, with 47 Republicans voting in the affirmative as well. Notably, Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, whose anti-gay marriage statements were immortalized in 2018 Best Picture nominee “Vice,” voted in favor of the bill.

Cheney also denounced her previous statements in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, stating, “freedom means freedom for everybody.” However, the Republican Party’s top two representatives, Kevin McCarthy of California and Steve Scalise of Louisiana, voted against it.

While the House vote is a big victory for supporters of the Respect for Marriage Act, it is still not a law. Whether it will be approved by the Senate is unclear. Chuck Schumer of New York, Democrat and Senate majority leader, stated he wanted “to bring this bill to the floor, and we’re working to get the necessary Senate Republican support to ensure it would pass.” That mentioned Republican support would be a minimum of 10 affirmative Republican votes.

Democrat support remains strong, with many citing potential codifying of the bill as a counterattack in the wake of the overturning of Roe vs. Wade. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, whose congressional district lies within San Francisco, spoke about the recent ruling on the House floor and stood behind the bill, saying, “as radical Justices and right-wing politicians continue their assault on our basic rights, Democrats believe that the government has no place between you and the person you love.”

California District 13 Rep. Barbara Lee, who voted for the bill, also stated it was “a key step forward in House Democrats’ fight against the right-wing assault on freedom.”  Representative Eric Swalwell of District 15, which includes cities of Dublin, San Ramon, Livermore and Hayward simply tweeted, “Kevin McCarthy and the majority of @HouseGop just voted against same-sex marriage. As backwards as they are, we are not going backwards with them.”

While according to White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, President Joe Biden has been urging the Senate to send the bill to him soon, the process has instead been delayed.

Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, who became the first openly gay person to be elected to the Senate in 2012, told NPR that “we don’t want to bring it to the floor until we know that we can pass the legislation.”

Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky, has stated that he’d “delay announcing anything on that issue until we see what the majority leader wants to put on the floor.”

As Democrats attempt to gain support from across the aisle, and Republicans make few statements on the bill publicly, the future remains unclear.

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Barbara Lee

Black Californians Split on Supreme Court Gun Rights Ruling

Late last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom fired back by signing two pieces of new legislation intended to strengthen the state’s hardline position on possessing firearms in public. He says, together, the bills, AB 1621 and AB 2571, will take on ghost guns and prohibit the gun industry from “advertising to children.”

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U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA-13) says the current right-leaning Supreme Court has shown a double standard in the way the justices ruled on gun rights and women’s rights to abortion.
U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA-13) says the current right-leaning Supreme Court has shown a double standard in the way the justices ruled on gun rights and women’s rights to abortion.

By Tanu Henry, California Black Media

A little over a week ago, the United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS) handed down a 6-to-3 decision making it more difficult for a handful of states – including California – to keep strict laws they have in place against carrying guns in public.

Late last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom fired back by signing two pieces of new legislation intended to strengthen the state’s hardline position on possessing firearms in public. He says, together, the bills, AB 1621 and AB 2571, will take on ghost guns and prohibit the gun industry from “advertising to children.”

“From our schools to our parks to our homes, our kids deserve to be safe – in California, we’re making that a reality. As the Supreme Court rolls back important gun safety protections and states across the country treat gun violence as inevitable, California is doubling down on commonsense gun safety measures that save lives,” said Newsom, who also pointed out that gun violence is the leading cause of death among children.

“The lives of our kids are at stake and we’re putting everything on the table to respond to this crisis,” the governor added.

News about the SCOTUS decision on guns June 23 was drowned out by coverage of the national outrage, and applause, that followed its ruling on Roe. V. Wade the next day.

Reactions nationally to the court’s gun restriction decision – the most significant change to the country’s firearm laws in a decade — were swift, passionate and strong. But the protests and celebrations mostly happened on the sidelines of the country’s more intense reactions to the abortion ruling.

In California, where more than 60% of all adults favor stronger gun laws, elected officials, activists and civil rights leaders have blasted the SCOTUS’ decision.

But not everyone agrees.

Micah Grant is Black, Republican, a father, husband and Natomas School Board member in Sacramento County. He agrees with the SCOTUS’ decision on guns, arguing that the New York law had a built-in racial and class bias.

“I think it’s a fundamentally sound ruling that comes at, obviously, a very sensitive time,” Grant said. “But the laws as they were created two separate classes of people, where in many regions, only the connected and elite could exercise their fundamental right to protection.”

Grant says with crime on the rise in many cities across California, just going outside is “cause enough” to carry a gun.

“The state can simply implement reasonable training requirements to ensure those who apply for permits are knowledgeable, responsible, trained and that they understand the liability that comes with gun ownership,” Grant added.

California is one of five states with gun restrictions on the books, both statewide and municipal, that are affected by the ruling. The others are Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Hawaii.

SCOTUS Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanagh said states are still allowed to ban handguns in certain sensitive places like courthouses, statehouses, polling places, etc.

Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA-37) is running for mayor of Los Angeles, a city where the homicide rate has seen a steep 50% increase between 2019 and the end of last year.

“Only 31 days after 19 students and 2 teachers were murdered in one of the most devastating mass shootings in the history of this country, the Supreme Court has responded by striking down a law that was on the books for more than 100 years, making it easier now to carry a weapon in public,” Bass said in response to SCOTUS’ ruling.

Craig DeLuz is Black and Republican like Grant and also the publisher of 2ANews, an online news and opinion outlet focused on gun rights.

“When you have a patchwork of laws from one city to another you don’t know what the regulations are. You are setting someone up to violate the law,” he says.

DeLuz says as Gov. Newsom and state legislators draft new public safety laws to comply with the SCOTUS’ ruling, he hopes they do not violate the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution that grants citizens the right to bear arms.

“His lack of knowledge on the issue of firearm policy and firearm technology is evident every time he speaks about it,” DeLuz said, criticizing the governor.

“Gun control laws in the state of California and nationally have been about disarming people of color going back to the 1870s,” he said. “It has been about making it illegal for Native Americans, Chinese Americans, Blacks and other people of color from owning firearms.”

Assemblymember Mike Gipson (D-Carson) has been the strongest voice in the California Legislative Black Caucus calling for strong gun control laws.

“Alarmingly, we are finding that more and more, no region or demographic is exempt from gun violence – our hospitals, grocery stores, schools, and even places of worship, are no longer safe. The proliferation of ghost guns, which are intentionally untraceable weapons to evade law enforcement, has only worsened the issue,” Gipson said.

U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA-13) says the current right-leaning Supreme Court has shown a double standard in the way the justices ruled on gun rights and women’s rights to abortion.

“This conservative Supreme Court has ruled that states shouldn’t be trusted to make their own laws on gun control but can keep people from making their own health care decisions. It is unconscionable,” Lee said. “We are seeing the horrific consequences of minority rule playing out in real time—and this is only the beginning of their radical agenda to take America back in history and take another step toward eroding our democracy.”

There is overwhelming support and widespread commitment among elected officials in California for finding ways to strengthen gun laws in the wake of the SCOTUS decision.

In the state budget that Newsom signed last week, lawmakers and the governor’s office agreed to fund $176 million in gun violence prevention grants going to 79 cities and nonprofits.

California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced that he is working with the state Legislature on Senate Bill (SB) 918, to preserve California’s existing concealed carry laws. He reminded residents of the state that “general prohibitions” against carrying firearms in public are still in effect.

“The data is clear, and the consequences are dire — more guns in more places make us less safe. In California, we are committed to passing and defending common-sense, constitutional gun laws that save lives,” Bonta said.

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Activism

Congresswoman Barbara Lee’s Fourth of July Remarks

Independence and liberty for all were not achieved in 1776. Instead, it’s taking centuries to realize true freedom — for Black people, women, LGBTQ+ communities, and so many more marginalized groups.

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“Remembering my friend and personal hero, John Lewis, I wanted to share some of my favorite memories with you all,” (Photo: Barbara Lee, March 2020 / Wikimedia Commons)
“Remembering my friend and personal hero, John Lewis, I wanted to share some of my favorite memories with you all,” (Photo: Barbara Lee, March 2020 / Wikimedia Commons)

On July 4th, we celebrated 246 years since our nation gained independence. And on this holiday, I’m mindful of what freedom really means to many Americans.

Independence and liberty for all were not achieved in 1776. Instead, it’s taking centuries to realize true freedom — for Black people, women, LGBTQ+ communities, and so many more marginalized groups.

It’s why we celebrated Juneteenth two weeks ago — honoring the emancipation of people who were enslaved in Texas and the struggle for Black liberation. And it’s why we celebrated Pride last month — commemorating the Stonewall Uprising led by trans women of color and the ongoing fight for LGBTQ+ rights and equality.”

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