Members of the Congressional Black Caucus elected California Democratic Rep. Karen Bass to lead them in the next Congress, as the group crosses a milestone 50-member threshold.
The CBC is adding nine new members, bringing its total membership to 55. Bass, who currently serves as the caucus’s second vice chair, replaces Louisiana Democratic Rep. Cedric L. Richmond, who took the helm of the caucus in late 2016.
“There’s much work to be done next Congress to ensure equality and justice for African Americans and other marginalized communities, and I am confident Congresswoman Bass will continue to provide strong leadership in this regard,” Richmond said in a statement.
Since its formation in 1971, the CBC has been dominated by Democrats. The group focuses on serving African-Americans and other marginalized populations and in recent years has pursued legislative priorities including a criminal justice overhaul , education opportunities, affordable health care and addressing racial disparities in heath outcomes.
The CBC holds significant power within the Democratic Caucus and the chairmanship can be a launching pad into party leadership positions — the current assistant Democratic leader, South Carolina Rep. James E. Clyburn, is a former CBC chairman. Members of the CBC are expected to chair five House committees and 28 subcommittees in the next Congress.
Bass was first elected to her Los Angeles-area seat in 2010. She previously served six years in the California State Assembly, where in 2008 she became the first African-American woman to become speaker of any state legislature.
Bass is set to lead the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations in the new Congress, which will give her a platform to promote foreign policy initiatives to build capacity in African countries.
She also serves on the House Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over criminal justice legislation and voting rights proposals.
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