A Conversation with Rep. Barbara Lee at IAC

Peter Taback

Once again, Representative Barbara Lee (D- CA) was the sole member of the U.S. Congress to attend the International AIDS Conference. Rep. Lee understands the complicated obstacles that thwart effective HIV prevention, though not all of her recommendations are embraced.

The International AIDS Conference
has a history of welcoming world leaders, including presidents and kings,
greeting delegates and saluting "them" for their efforts to eradicate
HIV. Year after year, one elected official has bypassed the flashing
lights and cameras of the opening ceremony and joined the ranks as one
of "us," contributing energetically as a presenter, moderator, spokesperson
and HIV visionary all week.

Once again, Representative
Barbara Lee (D-CA) is the sole member of the U.S. Congress to attend
the International AIDS Conference. On Tuesday, I caught up with Rep. Lee to learn how her involvement builds progressive
momentum globally and in the U.S.

"I saw that there was a void
when I when to Congress so I started participating to get a good handle
on what strategies and what policies the United States should mount."

Hers is a simple operating
plan. Rep. Lee connects the House of Representatives to major themes
of the epidemic, building bi-partisan support for critical issues such
as comprehensive sex education, family planning and the U.S. travel
ban, whose repeal she successfully engineered in the new PEPFAR bill.

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

"When I was in Toronto, it
dawned on me that we should have one of these great conferences in my
district in Oakland. Then someone reminded me, ‘you can’t do that
Barbara, there’s a travel ban.’ So I went back to Congress, wrote
and introduced a resolution that would lift the travel ban. I’m proud
to say that in the PEPFAR bill that President Bush signed into law,
that travel ban was repealed. Now we need to implement the regulations,
which we’re working on."

Representative Lee understands
the complicated obstacles that thwart effective HIV prevention, though
not all of her recommendations are embraced. Support for family planning
is absent from the new PEPFAR-a painful irony in the city that gave
the global gag rule the name "Mexico City Policy."

"That is something that was
left out of PEPFAR and we couldn’t negotiate it with the other side.
Hopefully when there is another President we can go back to the drawing
board and fix that. It’s absolutely essential that we have coordination
between HIV/AIDS initiatives and family planning. I want to repeal the
Global Gag Rule that does not allow organizations to receive federal
funding to provide full reproductive health counseling, including abortion
counseling. It is a shame and disgrace and does a disservice to women,
harming millions of women throughout the world."

Domestically, Rep. Lee is aghast
at infection rates in the African-American community including those
in her Oakland, California district. She laments Congress’s failure
to adequately fund the Minority AIDS Initiative and was not surprised
at the CDC’s revised surveillance figures or the recent Black AIDS
Institute report, "Left Behind."

"There’s been a severe
undercount. The Black AIDS Institute knew this, I knew this, members
of Congress knew this. BAI is calling for a domestic PEPFAR and I fully
agree with them. They want 1.3 billion to begin. I think we need billions
and billions and billions more."

Of course, to be effective,
that level of funding will require another sweeping policy change,
an end to the abstinence-only-until-marriage programs favored by the
administration. Rep. Lee has led the charge against abstinence-only-until-marriage
programs and wrote a bill to allow states to devise evidence-based HIV
and AIDS education.

"The Responsible Education
about Life [REAL] Act, be for REAL, that’s my bill, has more than
100 co-sponsors. That bill would in essence allow states to use federal
funding to teach comprehensive sex education in public schools, to teach
young people how to prevent the transmission of HIV and AIDS and also
how to prevent unwanted pregnancies. It’s got to happen."

"Hopefully with a new president
we’ll be able to push that policy forward."

To hear the entire interview
with Rep. Barbara Lee, visit the San Francisco AIDS Foundation’s podcast
at www.sfaf.org

News Politics

Debbie Wasserman Schultz Resigns as Chair of DNC, Will Not Gavel in Convention

Ally Boguhn

Donna Brazile, vice chair of the DNC, will step in as interim replacement for Wasserman Schultz as committee chair.

On the eve of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) resigned her position as chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), effective after the convention, amid controversy over leaked internal party emails and months of criticism over her handling of the Democratic primary races.

Wasserman Schultz told the Sun Sentinel on Monday that she would not gavel in this week’s convention, according to Politico.

“I know that electing Hillary Clinton as our next president is critical for America’s future,” Wasserman Schultz said in a Sunday statement announcing her decision. “Going forward, the best way for me to accomplish those goals is to step down as Party Chair at the end of this convention.”

“We have planned a great and unified Convention this week and I hope and expect that the DNC team that has worked so hard to get us to this point will have the strong support of all Democrats in making sure this is the best convention we have ever had,” Wasserman Schultz continued.

Just prior to news that Wasserman Schultz would step down, it was announced that Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH) would chair the DNC convention.

Donna Brazile, vice chair of the DNC, will step in as interim replacement for Wasserman Schultz as committee chair.

Wasserman Schultz’s resignation comes after WikiLeaks released more than 19,000 internal emails from the DNC, breathing new life into arguments that the Democratic Party—and Wasserman Schultz in particular—had “rigged” the primary in favor of nominating Hillary Clinton. As Vox‘s Timothy B. Lee pointed out, there seems to be “no bombshells” in the released emails, though one email does show that Brad Marshall, chief financial officer of the DNC, emailed asking whether an unnamed person could be questioned about “his” religious beliefs. Many believe the email was referencing Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT).

Another email from Wasserman Schultz revealed the DNC chair had referred to Sanders’ campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, as a “damn liar.”

As previously reported by Rewire before the emails’ release, “Wasserman Schultz has been at the center of a string of heated criticisms directed at her handling of the DNC as well as allegations that she initially limited the number of the party’s primary debates, steadfastly refusing to add more until she came under pressure.” She also sparked controversy in January after suggesting that young women aren’t supporting Clinton because there is “a complacency among the generation” who were born after Roe v. Wade was decided.

“Debbie Wasserman Schultz has made the right decision for the future of the Democratic Party,” said Sanders in a Sunday statement. “While she deserves thanks for her years of service, the party now needs new leadership that will open the doors of the party and welcome in working people and young people. The party leadership must also always remain impartial in the presidential nominating process, something which did not occur in the 2016 race.”

Sanders had previously demanded Wasserman Schultz’s resignation in light of the leaked emails during an appearance earlier that day on ABC’s This Week.

Clinton nevertheless stood by Wasserman Schultz in a Sunday statement responding to news of the resignation. “I am grateful to Debbie for getting the Democratic Party to this year’s historic convention in Philadelphia, and I know that this week’s events will be a success thanks to her hard work and leadership,” said Clinton. “There’s simply no one better at taking the fight to the Republicans than Debbie—which is why I am glad that she has agreed to serve as honorary chair of my campaign’s 50-state program to gain ground and elect Democrats in every part of the country, and will continue to serve as a surrogate for my campaign nationally, in Florida, and in other key states.”

Clinton added that she still looks “forward to campaigning with Debbie in Florida and helping her in her re-election bid.” Wasserman Schultz faces a primary challenger, Tim Canova, for her congressional seat in Florida’s 23rd district for the first time this year.

News Politics

Rep. Steve King: What Have People Of Color Contributed to Civilization?

Ally Boguhn

King came under fire this month after local news station KCAU aired footage showing that the Iowa representative keeps a Confederate flag displayed on his desk.

Rep. Steve King (R-IA) on Monday questioned what “contributions” people of color have made to civilization while appearing on an MSNBC panel during the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

King’s comments came during a discussion on racial diversity within the Republican Party in which fellow panelist Charles P. Pierce said, “If you’re really optimistic, you can say this was the last time that old white people would command the Republican Party’s attention, its platform, its public face.”

“That [convention] hall is wired by loud, unhappy, dissatisfied white people,” Pierce added.

“This ‘old white people’ business though does get a little tired, Charlie,” King responded. “I’d ask you to go back through history and figure out, where are these contributions that have been made by these other categories of people that you’re talking about. Where did any other subgroup of people contribute more to civilization?”

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

“Than white people,” Hayes attempted to clarify.

“Than Western civilization itself,” King said. “It’s rooted in Western Europe, Eastern Europe and the United States of America and every place where the footprint of Christianity settled the world. That’s all of Western civilization.”

Another panelist, reporter April Ryan, countered “What about Asia? What about Africa?” before the panel broke out into disarray. Hayes moved to cut off the group, telling them, “We’re not going to argue the history of civilization.”

“Let me note for the record that if you’re looking at the ledger of Western civilization, for every flourishing democracy you’ve got Hitler and Stalin as well,” Hayes said. “So there’s a lot on both sides.”

Hayes justified abruptly ending the conversation about King’s comments in a series of tweets, saying that he had been “pretty taken aback by” the comments.

“The entire notion of debating which race/civilization/ ‘sub group’ contributed most or is best is as odious as it is preposterous,” Hayes tweeted. “Which is why I said ‘we’re not debating this here.’ But I hear people who think I made the wrong call in the moment. Maybe I did.”

King came under fire this month after local news station KCAU aired footage showing that the Iowa representative keeps a Confederate flag displayed on his desk. King, speaking with Iowa talk radio host Jeff Angelo, defended keeping the flag in his office.

“This is a free country and there’s freedom of speech,” King said, according to Right Wing Watch. “And, by the way, I’d encourage people to go back and read the real history of the Civil War and find out what it was about. A small part of it was about slavery, but there was a big part of it that was about states’ rights, it was about people that defended their homeland and fought next to their neighbors and their family.”

As the Washington Post’s Philip Bump explained in a report on King’s comments, “there have been a great number of non-white contributions to human civilization.”

“Civilization first arose in cities in Mesopotamia, in what is now Iraq and Syria. Arabic and Middle Eastern inventors and scientists brought astronomy to the world, which in turn aided innovations in navigation,” Bump wrote. “Critical innovations in mathematics and architecture originated in the same area. The Chinese contributed philosophical precepts and early monetary systems, among other things. The specific inventions that were created outside of the Western world are too many to list: the seismograph, the umbrella, gunpowder, stirrups, the compass.”