An Interview with Rep. Karen Bass, Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus

Gloria Dittus, Chairman of Story Partners, conducted an interview with Rep. Karen Bass, Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus and representative from California’s 37th Congressional District, in honor of Black History Month.

The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), which has a historic 55 members in the 116th Congress, works to ensure that African Americans and other marginalized communities in the United States have the opportunity to achieve the American Dream. The CBC represents more than 82 million Americans and more than 17 million African-Americans.

How does the Congressional Black Caucus honor Black History Month?

The CBC honors Black History Month by every day standing on the shoulders of those who came before us. In 2008, one of our own Members was sworn in as President and as of right now, we have two of our own Members running for President. We have so many members who do such important work that rarely gets acknowledged, one of my goals as CBC Chair is to make sure that these “hidden figures” are brought to light. For example, did you know that the CBC secured $50 million in HBCU scholarships in last year’s farm bill? We have to know history to make history and I think that’s the way we honor Black History Month.

What modern day challenges still need to be addressed to ensure all Americans have the opportunity to achieve the American Dream? What legislative priorities is the Congressional Black Caucus focused on advancing this year in Congress?

Voting rights, criminal justice reform, lowering prescription drug costs, fixing the Affordable Care Act – these are our top priorities. Full reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act is needed and a record of problems with the voting process also needs to be established. That will take a bit longer because it requires a larger investigatory process. The House Administration Committee, which has a new subcommittee focused on elections is already doing field hearings throughout the country to look at this issue. That charge is being led by Congresswoman Marcia Fudge, a former Chair of the CBC. We need to make voter-registration easier and prevent voter roll purging. Two weeks ago, I was in a hearing with a former member of Trump’s now-defunct voter fraud committee who said that using your governmental authority to purge more than 100,000 people from voter rolls during an election that you’re running in is called reasonable list maintenance. No, that’s called voter suppression. We must address this issue.

View the February 2019 edition of the Inside Story newsletter.