Maxine Moore Waters (born August 15, 1938) currently serves as the U.S. Representative for California's 43rd congressional district, and previously served the 35th and 29th districts, serving in Congress since 1991. A member of the Democratic Party, she is the most senior of the 12 black women currently serving in the United States Congress, and is a member and former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. Before becoming a member of Congress she served in the California Assembly, to which she was first elected in 1976. As an Assembly member, Waters advocated divestment from South Africa's apartheid regime. In Congress, she has been an outspoken opponent of the Iraq War and Presidents George H.W. Bush, Barack H. Obama and Donald J. Trump.

Early life and education

Waters was born in 1938 in St.Louis, Missouri, the daughter of Velma Lee (née Moore) and Remus Carr. [11] [12] Fourth out of thirteen children, Waters was raised by her single mother once her father left the family when Maxine was two. [13] She graduated from Vashon High School in St. Louis, Missouri before moving with her family to Los Angeles, California in 1961. She worked in a garment factory and as a telephone operator before being hired as an assistant teacher with the Head Start program at Watts in 1966. [13] Waters later enrolled at Los Angeles State College (now California State University, Los Angeles), where she received a bachelor's degree in sociology.

Early political career

In 1973, she went to work as chief deputy to City Councilman David S. Cunningham, Jr.. Waters entered the California State Assembly in 1976. While in the assembly she worked for the divestment of state pension funds from any businesses active in South Africa, a country then operating under the policy of apartheid, and helped pass legislation within the guidelines of the divestment campaign's Sullivan Principles. [14] She ascended to the position of Democratic Caucus Chair for the Assembly. [16]

U.S. House of Representatives

Elections

Upon the retirement of Augustus F. Hawkins in 1990, Waters was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives for California's 29th congressional district with over 79% of the popular vote. She has been re-elected consistently with at least 70% of the popular vote in the California's 35th congressional district after significant parts of the pre-1990 29th California Congressional District were folded into the newly defined 35th California Congressional District when California gained seven additional seats in the House following the 1990 United States Census. Waters has represented large parts of south-central Los Angeles and the Los Angeles coastal communities of Westchester and Playa Del Rey, as well as the cities of Torrance, Gardena, Hawthorne, Inglewood and Lawndale.

Tenure

On July 29, 1994, Waters came to public attention when she repeatedly interrupted a speech by Peter King (R-NY). The presiding officer, Carrie Meek (D-FL), classed her behaviour as "unruly and turbulent", and threatened to have the Sergeant at Arms present her with the Mace of the House of Representatives (the equivalent of a formal warning to desist). As of 2017, this is the most recent instance of the mace being employed in a disciplinary sense. Waters was eventually suspended from the house for the rest of the day. The conflict with King stemmed from the previous day, when they had both been present at a House Banking Committee hearing on the Whitewater controversy. Waters felt King's questioning of Maggie Williams ( Hillary Clinton's chief of staff) was too harsh, and they subsequently exchanged hostile words. [17] [19]

Waters was chair of the Congressional Black Caucus from 1997 to 1998. During 2005, Waters testified at the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce hearings on "Enforcement of Federal Anti-Fraud Laws in For-Profit Education", highlighting the American College of Medical Technology as a "problem school" in her district. [20] In 2006 she was involved in the debate over King Drew Medical Center. She criticized media coverage of the hospital and in 2006 Waters asked the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to deny a waiver of the cross ownership ban, and hence license renewal for KTLA-TV, a station the Los Angeles Times owned. She said that " The Los Angeles Times has had an inordinate effect on public opinion and has used it to harm the local community in specific instances." She requested that the FCC force the paper to either sell its station or risk losing that station's broadcast rights. [22] According to Broadcasting & Cable, the challenges raised "the specter of costly legal battles to defend station holdings... At a minimum, defending against one would cost tens of thousands of dollars in lawyers' fees and probably delay license renewal about three months". [23] Waters' petition was ultimately unsuccessful. [24] As a Democratic representative in Congress, Waters was a superdelegate to the 2008 Democratic National Convention. She endorsed Democratic Senator Hillary Clinton for the party's nomination in late January 2008, granting the New York Senator nationally recognized support that some suggested would "make big waves." [25] [26] Waters later switched her endorsement to Sen. Barack Obama when his lead in the pledged delegate count became insurmountable on the final day of primary voting. [27] Waters had a confrontation over an earmark in the United States House Committee on Appropriations with fellow Democratic congressman Dave Obey in 2009. The funding request was for a public school employment training center in Los Angeles that was named after her. [28] In 2011, Waters voted against the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 as part of a controversial provision that allows the government and the military to indefinitely detain American citizens and others without trial. [29]

With the retirement of Barney Frank (D-Massachusetts) in 2012, Waters became the ranking member of the House Financial Services Committee. [30] On July 24, 2013, Waters voted in favor of Amendment 100 included in H.R. 2397 Department of Defense Appropriations Act of 2014. [31] The amendment targeted domestic surveillance activities, specifically that of the National Security Agency, and if ultimately passed would have limited the flexibility of the NSA's interpretation of the law to collect sweeping data on U.S. citizens. [32] Amendment 100 was rejected 217–205. On March 27, 2014, Waters introduced a discussion draft of the Housing Opportunities Move the Economy Forward Act of 2014 known as the HOME Forward Act of 2014. [33] A key provision of the bill includes the collection of 10 basis points for “every dollar outstanding mortgages collateralizing covered securities” estimated to be approximately $5 billion a year. These funds would be directed to three funds that support affordable housing initiatives, with 75% going to the National Housing trust fund. The National Housing Trust Fund will then provide block grants to states to be used primarily to build, preserve, rehabilitate, and operate rental housing that is affordable to the lowest income households, and groups including seniors, disabled persons and low income workers. The National Housing Trust was enacted in 2008, but has yet to be funded. [34] In 2009, Waters co-sponsored Rep. John Conyers' bill calling for reparations for slavery to be paid to black Americans. [35]

Rodney King verdict and Los Angeles riots

When south-central Los Angeles erupted in riots —in which 58 were killed—after the Rodney King verdict in 1992, Waters gained national attention "when she helped deliver relief supplies in Watts and demanded the resumption of vital services". [36] [37] Waters described the riots as a rebellion, saying "If you call it a riot it sounds like it was just a bunch of crazy people who went out and did bad things for no reason. I maintain it was somewhat understandable, if not acceptable." [38] In her view, the violence was “a spontaneous reaction to a lot of injustice.” In regards to the looting of Korean-owned stores by local black residents, she said: “There were mothers who took this as an opportunity to take some milk, to take some bread, to take some shoes... They are not crooks.” [39]

Castro and Cuba

Waters has visited Cuba a number of times, praised Fidel Castro's moves towards democracy and criticized US efforts to overthrow him, and demanded an end to the U.S. trade embargo. [40] In 1998 Waters wrote a letter to Castro citing the 1960s and 1970s as "a sad and shameful chapter of our history", and thanked Castro for providing help to those who needed to "flee political persecution". [42] In 1998, she supported a Republican bill to extradite convicted murderer Assata Shakur from Cuba. When she discovered that Shakur was listed by her former name, Joanne Chesimard, Waters wrote an open letter to Fidel Castro asking him not to extradite Shakur because much of the Black community regarded her conviction as false. [43] [44] [45] After a woman drowned during an attempted escape from Cuba to the US in 1999, leaving a six-year-old son, Elian Gonzales, who survived and requested asylum in the US, Waters called on President Bill Clinton to return him at once to Cuba. [42]

Government spending

In September 2011, Waters called for the implementation of a federal "jobs program of a trillion dollars or more". "We've got to put Americans to work," she said. "That's the only way to revitalize this economy. When people work they earn money, they spend that money, and that's what gets the economy up and going." [46]

Haiti

Waters opposed the 2004 coup d'état in Haiti and criticized U.S. involvement. [47] Following the coup, Waters led a delegation along with TransAfrica Forum founder Randall Robinson and Jamaican member of parliament Sharon Hay-Webster to meet with Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and bring him to Jamaica, where he would remain until May. [49] [51] [52]

CIA

Following a 1996 San Jose Mercury News article alleging the complicity of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in the Los Angeles crack epidemic of the 1980s, Waters called for an investigation. Waters questioned whether "U.S.-government paid or organized operatives smuggled, transported and sold it to American citizens." [54] The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) announced it had failed to find any evidence to support the original story. The Los Angeles Times also concluded after its own extensive investigation that the allegations were not supported by evidence. [14] The author of the original story, Gary Webb, was eventually transferred to a different beat and removed from investigative reporting, before his death in 2004. [14] Webb was found in his apartment with two bullet holes in his head. His death was declared a suicide. Following these post-publication investigations, Waters read into the Congressional Record a memorandum of understanding in which former President Ronald Reagan's CIA director rejected any duty by the CIA to report illegal narcotics trafficking to the Department of Justice. [14] [14] Undeterred, Waters told the Los Angeles Times in 1997: "It doesn't matter whether the CIA delivered the kilo of cocaine themselves or turned their back on it to let somebody else do it. They're guilty just the same."

Iraq War

Waters voted against the Iraq War Resolution, the 2002 resolution that funded and granted Congressional approval to possible military action against the regime of Saddam Hussein. [14] She has remained a consistent critic of the subsequent war and has supported an immediate troop withdrawal from Iraq. Waters asserted in 2007 that President George W. Bush was trying to "set [Congress] up" by continually requesting funds for an "occupation" that is "draining" the country of capital, soldier's lives, and other resources. In particular, she argued that the very economic resources being "wasted" in Iraq were those that might provide universal health care or fully fund President Bush's own " No Child Left Behind " education bill. Additionally, Waters, representing a congressional district whose median income falls far below the national average, argued that patriotism alone had not been the sole driving force for those U.S. service personnel serving in Iraq. Rather, "many of them needed jobs, they needed resources, they needed money, so they're there". [14] In a subsequent floor speech, Waters told her colleagues that Congress, lacking the votes to override the "inevitable Bush veto on any Iraq-related legislation," needed to "better [challenge] the administration's false rhetoric about the Iraq war" and "educate our constituents [about] the connection between the problems in Pakistan, Turkey, and Iran with the problems we have created in Iraq". [14] A few months prior to these speeches Waters became a cosponsor of the House resolution to impeach Vice President Dick Cheney for making allegedly "false statements" about the war. [14]

International lending

In August 2008, Waters introduced HR 6796, or the "Stop Very Unscrupulous Loan Transfers from Underprivileged countries from Rich Exploitive Funds Act," also known as the Stop VULTURE Funds Act. This would limit the ability of investors in sovereign debt to use U.S. courts to enforce those instruments against a defaulting country. The bill died in committee. [14]

Mandatory minimum sentences

Waters opposes mandatory minimum sentences. [16]

Criticism of the Tea Party Movement

Waters has been very critical of the Tea Party movement. On August 20, 2011, while at a town hall discussing some of the displeasure that supporters of President Obama have had with the Congressional Black Caucus not supporting the president, Waters stated, "This is a tough game. You can't be intimidated. You can't be frightened. And as far as I'm concerned, the 'tea party' can go straight to Hell ... and I intend to help them get there." [16] [16]

Criticism of George H. W. Bush

In July 1992, Waters labeled President George H. W. Bush "a racist" who has "polarized the races in this country". Previously, Waters had suggested that Bush has used race to advance his policies. [16]

Criticism of Barack Obama

In August 2011, Waters criticized President Barack Obama, saying that he was insufficiently supportive of the black community. Waters referred to the high unemployment rate for African-Americans (which was hovering around 15.9 percent at the time). [16] At a Congressional Black Caucus town-hall meeting on jobs in Detroit, Waters said that African American members of Congress were reluctant to criticize or place public pressure on Obama because "y'all love the president". [16]

In October 2011, Waters took her criticism of Obama to a 'new level' by confronting the White House with racial issues it had worked hard to avoid. She loudly expressed a sense of frustration that Obama, whose election, once hailed as a crowning achievement in African-Americans struggle for equality, had not resulted in any sweeping changes. [16]

Criticism of Donald Trump

In a 2017 appearance on MSNBC's All In with Chris Hayes , Waters said President Donald Trump's advisors who have ties to Russia or have oil and gas interests there are "a bunch of scumbags". [16] In February 2017, Waters said that Trump was "leading himself" to possible impeachment because of his conflicts and because many have suspicions, and that he was creating "chaos and division". [16]

Waters supports the impeachment of Trump, referring to him as a "disgusting, poor excuse of a man" [75] and "the most deplorable person I've ever met in my life". [17]

Waters texted an allegation on Twitter regarding the Trump White House, "Trump has made it clear—it is now the White Supremacists' House", [17] linking President Trump to the violence that erupted at a white nationalist protest rally in Charlottesville, Virginia on August 12, 2017.

Waters claimed in October 2017 that the U.S. Congress had enough evidence against Trump to 'be moving on impeachment', in reference to Russian collusion allegations during the 2016 Presidential election, and that Trump "has openly obstructed justice in front of our face." [17]

Allegations of corruption

According to Chuck Neubauer and Ted Rohrlich writing in the Los Angeles Times in 2004, Maxine Waters' relatives had made more than $1 million during the preceding eight years by doing business with companies, candidates and causes that Waters had helped. They claimed she and her husband helped a company get government bond business, and her daughter Karen Waters and son Edward Waters have profited from her connections. Waters replied that "They do their business and I do mine." [79] Liberal watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington named Waters to its list of corrupt members of Congress in its 2005, 2006, 2009 and 2011 reports. [17] [75] Citizens Against Government Waste named her the June 2009 Porker of the Month due to her intention to obtain an earmark for the Maxine Waters Employment Preparation Center. [17] [17]

Waters came under investigation for ethics violations and was accused by a House panel of at least one ethics violation related to her efforts to help OneUnited Bank receive federal aid. [17] Waters' husband is a stockholder and former director of OneUnited Bank and the bank's executives were major contributors to her campaigns. In September 2008, Waters arranged meetings between U.S. Treasury Department officials and OneUnited Bank, so that the bank could plead for federal cash. It had been heavily invested in Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, and its capital was "all but wiped out" after the U.S. government took them over. The bank received $12 million in Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) money. [17] [17] The matter was investigated by the House Ethics Committee, [19] [19] which charged her with violations of the House's ethics rules in 2010. [90] [91] [92] [93] On September 21, 2012, the House Ethics Committee completed a report clearing Waters of all ethics charges after nearly three years of investigation. [19]

"Reclaiming My Time"

In July 2017, during a House Financial Services Committee meeting, Waters questioned United States Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin. During the questioning, Waters constantly interrupted Mnuchin, using the phrase "reclaiming my time" as it appeared that she felt he was not answering the questions. The video of the interaction between Waters and Mnuchin became viral on social media, and the phrase became attached to her criticisms of Trump. [19]

Committee assignments

Previously, she had served on the Committee on the Judiciary.

Caucus memberships

Personal life

Maxine Waters' second husband, Sid Williams, played professional football in the NFL [19] and is a former U.S. Ambassador to the Bahamas under the Clinton Administration. [19]

Other achievements

See also