Before the Congressional Black Caucus PAC endorsed Hillary Clinton on Thursday, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), a prominent left-wing Congressional Black Caucus member, refused to endorse Clinton.
Other prominent Congressional Black Caucus leaders like Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC) have also not endorsed Clinton as Sanders and Clinton fight for black voters ahead of South Carolina’s primary, where blacks make up a majority of the primary electorate. Lee said she wanted to make it clear that there is a “clear distinction” between the Congressional Black Caucus and the CBC PAC.
“Amy, first of all, I want to make it clear there’s a clear distinction between the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Black Caucus PAC,” Lee told “Democracy Now” host Amy Goodman. “We actually have a Republican in the Congressional Black Caucus. I don’t want the viewers, your viewers, to believe that the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Black Caucus PAC are one and the same.”
Lee added that, “I have not endorsed in the campaign, and I think what’s important is the issues be addressed.”
When Goodman mentioned that Lee endorsed Barack Obama in 2007 before Iowa and South Carolina, Lee said that “at that point, he was the right person at the right time to really become the president of the United States.” She said “we need to let the people speak and let democracy play out” in South Carolina in 2016.
Regarding a potential endorsement, Lee said she makes her decisions based on when she is needed in the campaign.
“We decide how we’re going to endorse and when we’re going to endorse based on what decisions we think are necessary to get us to that point and when we are needed in campaigns and when we see—at least myself, personally, when I see my support really will help turnout and help us win the White House,” she said. “That is what my criteria is. And I think that when that day comes, I will endorse, but it won’t be until I see that I can really help, in terms of making sure we do not have a Republican in the White House.”
Lee said she did not have a specific litmus test, but when asked what issues were important to her, Lee mentioned climate change, environmental racism that she said disproportionally impacts minorities in cities like Flint, education, affordable housing, criminal justice, voting rights, and gentrification. Lee also said the issues concerning “income inequality” were important because “racial and income inequality go together. There is a clear nexus.”
She also basted the “obscene” defense budget and the various “slush funds” that are used to fund wars overseas. Lee said the federal government is paying defense contractors for “systems for a Cold War that doesn’t exist” and argued that though she was not soft on terrorism, the billions America is spending fighting ISIS should be reinvested at home.
“And we need to have a defense budget that’s rational. It’s over $600 billion now. You know, it’s based on, I think, a lot of fear, as it relates to Putin,” she claimed. “And I think we have to really take a pause and look at what is taking place in the world, develop a defense budget that’s rational, ensures our national security, but not play into the defense contractors and the research and the R&D budgets that are really there for contractors who are developing systems for a Cold War era that doesn’t exist.”