Karen Bass

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Karen Bass
Member of the
U.S. House of Representatives
from California
Assumed office
January 3, 2011
Preceded by Diane Watson (33rd)
Laura Richardson (37th)
Succeeded by Henry Waxman (33rd)
Constituency 33rd district (2011–13)
37th district (2013–)
67th Speaker of the California Assembly
In office
May 13, 2008 – March 1, 2010
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
Preceded by Fabian Núñez
Succeeded by John Pérez
Member of the California State Assembly
from the 47th district
In office
December 6, 2004 – December 6, 2010
Preceded by Herb Wesson
Succeeded by Holly Mitchell
Personal details
Born Karen Ruth Bass
(1953-10-03) October 3, 1953 (age 64)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Jesus Lechuga (1980–1986)
Children 1 daughter
4 stepchildren
Education San Diego State University
California State University, Dominguez Hills (BS)
Website House website

Karen Ruth Bass (born October 3, 1953) is an American Democratic politician. She represents California's 37th congressional district in the United States House of Representatives; she was first elected in 2010. In redistricting following the 2010 census, the district was renumbered from 33rd to 37th. Bass represented the 47th district in the California State Assembly 2004–2010, and was Speaker of the California State Assembly 2008–2010 (second woman, third African American speaker).[7][8]

Early life, education, and medical career[edit]

Bass was born in Los Angeles, California, the daughter of Wilhelmina (née Duckett) and DeWitt Talmadge Bass.[9] Her father was a letter carrier.[5] She was raised in the Venice/Fairfax neighborhood and went to Hamilton High School. She studied philosophy at San Diego State University (1971–1973), then earned a B.S. in health sciences from California State University, Dominguez Hills (1990).[1]

Bass worked as a physician assistant and as a clinical instructor at the USC Keck School of Medicine Physician Assistant Program.[10] Bass founded Community Coalition, an organization in South Los Angeles.[11]

California Assembly[edit]

As the Assemblymember for the 47th District, Bass served the cities and communities of Culver City, West Los Angeles, Westwood, Cheviot Hills, Leimert Park, Baldwin Hills, View Park-Windsor Hills, Ladera Heights, the Crenshaw District, Little Ethiopia, and portions of Koreatown and South Los Angeles.[citation needed]

In addition to her leadership of California African Americans for Obama and her post on Barack Obama's national African American Leadership Council, Bass served as a California Co-chair of Obama's 2008 presidential campaign.

Leadership prior to speaker election[edit]

Speaker Fabian Núñez appointed Bass California State Assembly Majority Whip (2005–2006), and Majority Floor Leader for 2007–2008 legislative session. She was chair of the Select Committee on Foster Care and vice chair of the Legislative Black Caucus. She succeeded Núñez as Speaker on May 13, 2008; he was termed out of the Assembly November 30, 2008.[7]

As chair of the Legislative Black Caucus, she commissioned a report to research the basic demographic profile of Black Californians including the basic social and economic conditions.[12] The State of Black California report included a statewide organizing effort to involve Black Californians in identifying their concerns and making legislative recommendations.[13]


With the defeat of Proposition 93, Speaker Fabian Núñez was termed out of the Assembly at the end of the 2007-2008 session. As the next-highest-ranking Democrat in the Assembly, Bass was well-positioned to take the post. After consolidating the support of a number of Legislators who had previously also been seeking the Speakership, Bass was elected Speaker on February 28, 2008 and then sworn in as Speaker on May 13.[14]

Bass was criticized[by whom?] for the following statement to Los Angeles Times reporter Patt Morrison: "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."[15]

Since leaving office, Bass was named Speaker Emeritus.[16]

U.S. House of Representatives[edit]



Bass was ineligible to run for reelection in 2010 due to term limits and on February 18, 2010, confirmed her candidacy to succeed retiring U.S. Representative Diane Watson in California's 33rd congressional district.[17]

Bass raised $932,281.19 and spent $768,918.65. Her 2010 campaign contributions came from very different and diverse groups with none donating more than 15% of her total campaign funds. The five major donors to her campaign are Labor Unions with $101,950.00; Financial Institutions with $90,350.00; Health Professionals with $87,900.00; the Entertainment Industry with $52,400.00 and Lawyers and Law Firms with $48,650.00.[18]

Bass won the election with over 86% of the vote on November 2, 2010.[19]


In 2012 she had no primary opponent, and carried the general election with 86%.[5] She raised $692,988.53 and spent $803,966.15, leaving $52,384.92 on hand and a debt of $3,297.59.[18]

Bass was considered a potential running mate for Bernie Sanders, had he won the 2016 Democratic Presidential Nomination. This would've made her the first African-American nominated for Vice President by a major party.

Committee assignments[edit]

Caucus memberships[edit]

Political positions[edit]

Bass is generally considered a liberal, with ratings of 100% or close from liberal interest group capitol Weekly Positions. Conservative groups like the California Republican Assembly Positions have consistently awarded her a 0%.[18]

Bass is a very strong supporter of gun control. The National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund Lifetime Score is an F. The Gun Owners of California Postitons on Gun Rights have also given Bass an F. Congresswoman Bass recently has voted against the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act that would loosen general Gun Control laws. In 2010 while campaigning for Congress Bass supported Expanded Firearm Registration Bill that with other regulations would have made all gun dealers report their sales to the Department of Justice. Bass also supported the Amendment to the Penal Code regarding Firearms of 2010.[18]

Congresswoman Karen Bass voted once in a way that led to the claim that she favors the continuation of militarized local police forces, when in 2014 she voted against the Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) amendment that would have halted the Pentagon's 1033 program.[23]

Bass serves in the Committee on Foreign Affairs. In her website, she supports "working with our NATO allies and within the United Nations". She also attributes significant importance to diplomacy and "create[ing] jobs here in the US." Bass does so through supporting trade protectionism. She voted against the Free Trade Treaty with South Korea and the Trade Promotion Agreements with Colombia and Panama.[18][24] Bass voted to authorize the United States military to participate in the 2011 military intervention in Libya. The measure (H J RES 68) failed 123-295.[25][26] In 2011, Bass became a co-sponsor of Bill H.R.3261 otherwise known as the Stop Online Piracy Act.[27]

Bass, once considered a social liberal, has seen her rating decline with LGBT organizations. She once maintained a 100% rating with the Human Rights Campaign[28] but in the most recent legislative session she failed to maintain her record and now ranks below most Democrats with a score of 88%.[29] She can be considered liberal in her fiscal positions. She has a rating of 10% from the very conservative California Tax Payers Association. However, the more liberal Consumer Federation of California gives her very high rankings. Besides the following positions on Taxing and Spending, she supports stimulus to create jobs.

Bass has been against general Budget-Wide Cuts like Resolution 38, which would reduce spending to 2008 levels. She has also opposed budgets with deep cuts like the 2011 Budget. However, she has supported the H Amendment 16 for Reducing Navy and Air Force Appropriations. She has supported mainly military cuts.

Bass has supported keeping taxes low for the middle class and "tax credits for small businesses to hire new employees". She states that the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest should expire because "the wealthy ... don't need these breaks."[18][30]

She is a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.[31]

Personal life[edit]

From 1980 to 1986, Bass was married to Jesus Lechuga. Following their divorce, Bass and Lechuga jointly raised their daughter and four stepchildren together.[32]

Bass suffered the loss of her only child, daughter Emilia Wright, and her son-in-law Michael Wright, in a car accident in 2006.[33]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Young, Kerry (November 6, 2010). "112th Congress: Karen Bass, D-Calif. (33rd District)". Congressional Quarterly.
  2. ^ "California Assembly District 47". California Assembly. July 7, 2008. Archived from the original on 2009-06-02. Retrieved 2013-10-01.
  3. ^ "Full Biography | Congresswoman Karen Bass". U.S. House of Representatives. Archived from the original on 2013-10-04. Retrieved 2013-10-01.
  4. ^ "Karen Bass - Archives of Women's Political Communication". Archives of Women's Political Communication. Iowa State University. Retrieved 2013-10-01. Bass was born October 3, 1953, and raised in Los Angeles. She attended San Diego State University from 1971–1973 and graduated from California State University, Dominguez Hills in 1990 with a Bachelor of Science in health sciences.
  5. ^ a b c d e Barone, Michael; Chuck McCutcheon (2013). The Almanac of American Politics 2014. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. pp. 243–245. ISBN 978-0-226-10544-4. Copyright National Journal.
  6. ^ "Aztec Action Network". San Diego State University. Retrieved 2013-10-02. Residence: Los Angeles
  7. ^ a b Vogel, Nancy (2008-02-28). "L.A. woman to follow Nunez". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2015-12-21.
  8. ^ "African American Speakers of the California". Los Angeles Sentinel. Retrieved 2015-12-21.
  9. ^ "Karen Bass ancestry". RootsWeb. Retrieved 2013-10-01.
  10. ^ "About Karen". KarenBass.com. Archived from the original on December 2, 2010. Retrieved December 4, 2010.
  11. ^ "About Us". Community Coalition. Archived from the original on 2014-02-22. Retrieved 2014-02-15.
  12. ^ Bass, Karen. "The State of Black California" (PDF). February 2007. California Democratic Caucus. Retrieved 11 September 2012.
  13. ^ Samad, Anthony Asadullah. "Between the lines". 8 February 2007. The Black Commentator. Retrieved 11 September 2012.
  14. ^ Yi, Matthew (29 February 2008). "L.A. lawmaker first African American woman to lead state Assembly". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2008-03-01.
  15. ^ Morrison, Patt (27 June 2009). "Madam Speaker: An interview with state Assembly Speaker Karen Bass". The Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 30 June 2009. Retrieved 2009-07-08.
  16. ^ "Speaker Emeritus Karen Bass". California State Assembly Democratic Caucus. November 17, 2010. Archived from the original on 2010-11-17. Retrieved 2010-10-01.
  17. ^ Merl, Jean (February 18, 2010). "Karen Bass confirms candidacy for seat in Congress". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 3, 2010.
  18. ^ a b c d e f "Representative Karen Bass' Campaign Finances - Project Vote Smart". Retrieved 2013-10-02.
  19. ^ Van Oot, Torey (November 3, 2010). "Bass, Denham win seats in Congress". The Sacramento Bee. Retrieved 2010-11-03.
  20. ^ "Membership". Congressional Black Caucus. Retrieved 7 March 2018.
  21. ^ "Members". Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus. Retrieved 17 May 2018.
  22. ^ "Our Members". U.S. House of Representatives International Conservation Caucus. Retrieved 1 August 2018.
  23. ^ Alice Salles (February 24, 2015). "Black Caucus member can't recall her vote on police militarization". Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity.
  24. ^ "Foreign Policy". Karen Bass. Retrieved 2014-02-15.
  25. ^ "Authorizing the limited use of the United States Armed Forces in support of the NATO mission in Libya". Clerk of the United States House of Representatives. June 24, 2011. Retrieved 2013-10-02.
  26. ^ "U.S. House of Representatives Roll Call Votes 112th Congress - 1st Session (2011)". Retrieved 2013-10-01.
  27. ^ "Stop Online Piracy Act (2011; 112th Congress H.R. 3261)". GovTrack.us. Retrieved 2013-10-02.
  28. ^ https://www.hrc.org/resources/congressional-scorecard
  29. ^ https://assets.hrc.org//files/assets/resources/114thCongressionalScorecard.pdf?_ga=2.99066590.1108067685.1507945042-1174069916.1502316348
  30. ^ "Jobs & the Economy". Karen Bass. Retrieved 2014-02-15.
  31. ^ "Caucus Members". Congressional Progressive Caucus. Retrieved 30 January 2018.
  32. ^ "Karen Bass Makes United States History as the first African American Woman to be named to Speaker of (sic)". The Black Voice News. Riverside, California: Brown Publishing Company. March 6, 2008. Retrieved 2013-10-02.
  33. ^ Silverstein, Stuart (October 31, 2006). "Couple die in crash on 405". Los Angeles Times.

External links[edit]

California Assembly
Preceded by
Herb Wesson
Member of the California Assembly
from the 47th district

Succeeded by
Holly Mitchell
Preceded by
Lloyd Levine
Majority Whip of the California Assembly
Succeeded by
Fiona Ma
Preceded by
Dario Frommer
Majority Leader of the California Assembly
Succeeded by
Alberto Torrico
Political offices
Preceded by
Fabian Núñez
Speaker of the California Assembly
Succeeded by
John Pérez
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Diane Watson
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 33rd congressional district

Succeeded by
Henry Waxman
Preceded by
Laura Richardson
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 37th congressional district

Current U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Lou Barletta
United States Representatives by seniority
Succeeded by
Diane Black