Maxine Waters: Expanded Profile
Maxine Waters is a Democratic Member of Congress who represents the 35th District of California. She was born in 1938 in St. Louis, Missouri, the fifth of thirteen children raised by a single mother in a home that was visited regularly by welfare and social workers.
Waters moved to Southern California in 1961, worked in a garment factory, raised two children and was employed for a year as a Head Start social worker following the 1965 Watts riots. In 1970 she earned a degree in sociology from California State University in Los Angeles.
Waters entered politics in 1973 as deputy to Los Angeles City Councilman David Cunningham. Three years later she ran successfully for a seat in the California Assembly, the lower house of the state legislature. An ally of Democrat powerbroker Phil Burton, she became a member of the Democratic National Committee in 1980 and helped design California's gerrymandered redistricting in 1982. In 1984 she was co-chair of Jesse Jackson's presidential campaign. When longtime Democratic Congressman Augustus Hawkins retired in 1990, Waters was anointed as his successor by Democratic Party bosses and easily won election. She has served in the U.S. House of Representatives ever since.
As a Member of Congress, Waters belongs to the Progressive Caucus and the Congressional Black Caucus, the latter of which she formerly headed. In June 2005 she co-founded and chaired the Out of Iraq Congressional Caucus (OICC), an entity dedicated to agitating for a swift withdrawal of U.S. troops from the Iraqi theater of war -- alleging that the American invasion in 2003 had been launched on a pretext of lies and deliberately manipulated intelligence. Waters’ fellow OICC co-founders included Lynn Woolsey, John Conyers, Charles Rangel, Barbara Lee, Jan Schakowsky, William Delahunt, and John R. Lewis.
Prior to every primary and final election, Waters publishes her own Progressive Connection mailer for her constituents; Democrat politicians eager for votes from her district pay Waters anywhere from $10,000 to $35,000 to be included in the slates of candidates her mailer endorses.
Waters’ political rhetoric is often demagogic. "I don't have time to be polite," she says, describing herself (in British statesman Lord Henry Palmerston's phrase) as having "no permanent friends, only permanent interests." In 2001 she depicted the retiring moderate Republican Mayor of Los Angeles, Richard Riordan, as a "plantation owner." On another occasion, while addressing the allegedly pervasive problem of police brutality against African Americans, Waters said that she had never seen Los Angeles police officers abuse "little white boys."
During the Los Angeles riots in the wake of the infamous 1992 Rodney King trial, Waters described the violence (in which 58 people were killed) as "a spontaneous reaction to a lot of injustice." She held “economic, social, cultural and political” factors responsible for the disorder. She dismissed the mass black looting of Korean-owned stores by saying: "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." She rationalized the racial hatred that had prompted a gang of black hoodlums to nearly murder white truck driver Reginald Denny, saying, "the anger in my district is … righteous … I'm just as angry as they are." Chanting the radical slogan "No justice, no peace," she attributed the rioters’ underlying rage to the federal government’s allegedly longstanding “neglect” of America’s inner cities.
Waters further asserted that racial injustice was rampant in America. She claimed that the L.A. tumult could rightly be called a “rebellion” or “insurrection,” but not a riot. “Riot implies to me wild, crazed, uncalled-for actions,” she explained, “and I’m not so sure that’s quite appropriate for what took place in Los Angeles.” It was “unfortunate,” she said, “that “it takes things like this rebellion to wake people up.”
Waters co-sponsored Rep. John Conyers' bill calling for reparations for slavery to be paid to African Americans.
Waters blames illicit drugs for the rampant crime that plagues her congressional district, and she has blamed the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) for the presence of those drugs. In the 1980s she accused the CIA of selling crack in black neighborhoods. However, the San Jose Mercury-News eventually retracted the story on which Waters had based her allegations for lack of evidence. 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."
Waters has traveled several times to Cuba, where she praised its former Marxist dictator Fidel Castro and called for an end to the U.S. trade embargo against the Castro government. In a letter to Castro (quoted during an October 2, 1998 newscast on Radio Havana), she wrote that Castro had a perfect right to grant "political asylum" to U.S. citizens fleeing "political persecution."
In 1999, when six-year-old Elian Gonzalez requested asylum in the U.S. after his mother had drowned during their escape from Cuba, Waters pressured President Bill Clinton to return the boy immediately to his homeland. During the controversy over the matter, Waters flew to Cuba and met with the boy's father and grandmothers, thereby giving political and propaganda support to Castro.
In 1998 Waters voted in favor of a measure calling on Castro to turn over (to U.S. authorities) a female fugitive named Assata Olugbala Shakur, who had received refugee status in Havana after escaping from a U.S. prison -- where she had been serving time for her role in the 1973 murder of a New Jersey state trooper. After having cast the aforementioned vote, Waters learned that Shakur was actually the former Black Panther Joanne Chesimard, who had taken a new name in the early 1970s. Once Waters was aware of the fugitive's actual identity, the congresswoman penned a letter of apology to Castro and urged the Cuban dictator to continue safeguarding the convicted killer -- because the latter been "persecuted for her civil-rights work" in the United States.
Organized labor is by far Waters’ biggest campaign contributor and has supplied more than two-thirds of her Political Action Committee (PAC) donations. Her largest labor support comes from the Laborers' International Union of North America and the Service Employees International Union. Other Waters campaign donors include the American Association for Justice (formerly known as the Association of Trial Lawyers of America) and Viacom, which owns CBS and many cable networks.
In August 2005 Waters threw her support behind Cindy Sheehan’s campaign to discredit President Bush and the Iraq War effort.
Also in 2005, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics (CREW) named Waters as one of the 13 "most corrupt" members of the U.S. Congress. The CREW report cited a December 2004 Los Angeles Times investigation disclosing how a number of 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. Waters declined to be interviewed about this matter, saying only that her family members “do their business, and I do mine.”
Following is an overview of Waters’ congressional voting record over the course of her political career, as per key pieces of legislation covering a wide array of issues.
In October 1991 Waters voted in favor of a proposal to replace the death penalty with a life imprisonment sentence in certain federal cases. In April 1994 she voted in favor of substituting life imprisonment for the death penalty in all cases.
Also in April 1994, she voted against a bill requiring a mandatory life sentence in prison for anyone convicted of three violent or drug-related felonies; reducing the age at which juveniles could be tried as adults for violent crimes; allocating $13.5 billion for the development and operation of prisons; and earmarking $3.45 billion to hire and train more police officers nationwide. In August 1994 she voted against another very similar bill.
In February 1998 she voted against a proposal to increase the mandatory minimum prison sentence for committing a federal crime with a firearm.
Waters believes that the American justice system is thoroughly infested with racism and discrimination against nonwhite minorities. She has stated that “the color of your skin dictates whether you will be arrested or not, prosecuted harshly or less harshly, or receive a stiff sentence or gain probation or entry into treatment.” Further, she warns that by imprisoning a disproportionate number of black males, “we are risking an entire generation of African American young men because of an unjust justice system.”
In February 1995 and December 1995, Waters voted against a welfare-reform bill designed to move people off the welfare rolls and into paying jobs. This bill replaced the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program with block grants to states; it increased those grants after two years for states wherein the number of out-of-wedlock pregnancies had declined; it barred states from giving cash assistance to children of unmarried teenagers; it prohibited states from providing additional cash assistance to families that gave birth to additional children while on public assistance; it required states to limit their aid to five years per family; it denied assistance for ten years to any person who had fraudulently sought to obtain assistance in more than one state; it denied assistance to fugitive felons and parole and probation violators; and it denied assistance to alcoholics and drug addicts.
In April 1995 Waters voted against a five-year, $189 billion tax cut proposal.
In October 1995 she voted against a bill aiming to reduce the federal deficit by lowering taxes and reducing spending on Medicare, Medicaid, and Welfare programs.
In April 1998 she voted against a Constitutional amendment that would have required a two-thirds vote in both Houses of Congress in order to raise taxes.
In September 1998 she voted against a bill to cut taxes for married couples, farmers, students, and others, and to earmark a portion of the federal budget surplus for Social Security.
In February 2000 she voted against a ten-year, $182 billion tax cut for married couples.
In March 2000 she voted against a five-year, $46 billion tax cut for small businesses.
In June 2000 she voted against a proposal to phase out estate and gift taxes over a ten-year period.
In July 2000 she voted against a five-year, $89.8 billion tax cut for married couples.
In May 2001 she voted against President George W. Bush’s 11-year $958.2 billion tax cut plan.
In May 2003 she voted against a $350 billion tax cut. This bill contained, among other things, a provision to eliminate the so-called "marriage tax penalty" by making the standard deduction for married couples twice that of a single filer.
In May 2004 she cast no vote on a proposal to extend the alternative minimum tax relief that had been available in 2003 and 2004.
Also in May 2004, she voted against a proposal to make the $1,000-per-child tax credit permanent rather than letting it decline to $700 in 2005. Four months later she voted against another bill calling for a five-year extension on the $1,000 child tax credit.
In October 2004 she voted against a ten-year, $145 billion tax cut for domestic manufacturers and small corporations.
In April 2005 she voted against a proposal to permanently repeal the estate tax.
In November 2005 she voted against a bill calling for a $49.91 billion reduction in federal spending over a five-year period. Thirteen months later she voted against a similar five-year proposal for $56.1 billion in federal spending reductions; that bill also called for the retention of a reduced tax rate on capital gains and dividends.
In May 2006 she voted against $69.96 billion in tax cuts and credits through 2010, including reductions of 15 percent on capital gains taxes and 5 percent on dividends taxes.
In June 2006 she cast no vote on a proposal to reduce estate taxes beginning in 2010; that proposal would have set the new rates at 15 percent for estates worth up to $25 million, and 30 percent for estates valued at more than $25 million.
In 2007, Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), which generally "opposes all tax increases as a matter of principle," gave Waters a grade of 5 percent (meaning that her votes were almost never consistent with ATR's values and priorities).
That same year, FreedomWorks, an organization that "fights for lower taxes, less government and more economic freedom for all Americans," gave Waters a rating of 10 percent.
Also in 2007, the National Taxpayers Union, which seeks to "reduce government spending, cut taxes, and protect the rights of taxpayers," gave Waters a grade of F.
And in 2005-06, the National Tax Limitation Committee, which lobbies against "intrusive, coercive government," gave her a rating of 6 percent.
Energy and Fossil Fuels
In May 1992 Waters voted in favor of increasing the use of domestically produced ethanol.
In October 1995 she voted against a bill that sought to open Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil and gas exploration.
In October 1997 she voted against permitting the temporary storage of nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain, Nevada.
In August 2001 she voted to prohibit drilling for oil in ANWR.
In May 2006 she voted against a proposal to provide funds for offshore oil exploration along the Outer Continental Shelf; instead, she favored a continuation of President Clinton's 1998 moratorium on oil drilling.
In October 2005 and June 2006, she voted against the construction of new oil refineries.
In September 2007 Waters voted in favor of a bill calling on money lenders "to use risk-based pricing to more effectively reach underserved borrowers." In other words, she was endorsing subprime loans to under-qualified borrowers—the very practice that eventually would lead to the cataclysmic collapse of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the mortgage industry.
In 2006 Waters received a 100 percent rating from ACORN, the political activist group that for many years has played a major role in pressuring banks to make subprime loans.
In September 2006 Waters voted against a bill authorizing the President to establish military commissions to try enemy combatants captured in the war on terror. In Waters’ view, such tribunals trample on the civil rights and liberties of defendants who, she contends, should be entitled to all the rights and protections afforded by the American criminal court system—where the standards that govern the admissibility of evidence are considerably stricter than the counterpart standards in military tribunals.
Counter-Terrorism & Homeland Security
In May 1991 Waters voted in favor of a proposal to terminate the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) program, which called for the development of a missile defense system.
In June 1991 she voted to cut $260 million in funding related to the development of the MX missile rail garrison.
In June 1992 she voted to decrease defense spending by 10 percent in the ensuing fiscal year. That same month, she voted to prohibit the production of any new B-2 aircraft by cutting $2.7 billion. In yet another June 1992 vote, she supported a $937.5 million funding cut for the SDI program (a 22 percent reduction).
In April 1996 she voted against a bill to increase the number of explosive-detection agents; to expand the deportation of criminal illegal aliens and suspected terrorists; to make it easier for the U.S. to deny asylum to suspected terrorists; and to bar terrorist organizations from fundraising in the United States.
In March 1999 she voted against a bill “to declare it to be the policy of the United States to deploy a national missile defense.”
In September 2001 she voted in favor of a joint resolution “to authorize the use of United States Armed Forces against those responsible for the recent [9/11] attacks launched against the United States.”
In October 2001 she voted against the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2001, which proposed to ease restrictions on government wiretap and surveillance operations; to permit government officials to share with one another the information they obtain from such surveillance operations; to strengthen security along the U.S./Canadian border; and to deny U.S. visas to suspected money-launderers.
Also in October 2001, she voted against the post-9/11 anti-terrorism measure known as the Patriot Act.
In July 2002 she voted against a bill permitting airline pilots to carry firearms for the purpose of defending the aircraft against acts of violence or terrorism.
In July 2005 she voted against reauthorizing the Patriot Act.
In September 2006 she voted against an amendment to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978; this amendment called for allowing the government to use electronic surveillance to investigate suspected terrorist operatives.
In August 2007 she voted against a bill permitting the Director of National Intelligence and the Attorney General to monitor foreign electronic communications which are routed through the United States—provided that the purpose of such monitoring was to obtain "foreign intelligence information" about suspected terrorists. In June 2008 she voted in favor of a bill specifically prohibiting this type of surveillance.
From 1998 to 2005, the Center for Security Policy, which is committed to "promoting international peace through American strength," gave Waters ratings that ranged from 8 percent to 12 percent.
In 2003-2004, the American Security Council, which "serves as educational secretariat of the Congressional Caucus on National Security," gave Waters a 10 percent rating.
Iraq War / War on Terror
In October 2002 Waters voted against a joint resolution to authorize the use of the U.S. Armed Forces against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.
In June 2006 she voted against a resolution which stated that it was not in America's national security interest to set an arbitrary date for the withdrawal of its troops from Iraq, and that a better course of action would be to withdraw the troops only upon the "completion of the mission to create a sovereign, free, secure and united Iraq."
In February 2007 she voted to disapprove of President Bush's decision to move ahead with the so-called troop "surge"—the deployment of some 21,500 additional U.S. soldiers in an effort to quell the violent insurgents in Iraq.
In May 2007 she voted in favor of a proposal to expedite the transfer of all prisoners who were then being held in the Guantanamo Bay detention center, most of whom were, as Gordon Cucullu wrote in The American Enterprise, "not innocent foot soldiers" but rather "Islamic fundamentalists from across the Middle East, rabid jihadists who have dedicated their lives to the destruction of America and Western civilization."
In July 2007 she voted to begin dramatically reducing the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq by April 1, 2008.
In July 1994 Waters voted against barring illegal aliens from receiving benefits and aid under the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA's) emergency food and shelter programs.
In March 1996 she cast no vote on a bill to prohibit illegal aliens from receiving public assistance.
In August 1996 she voted against a proposal “to declare English as the official language of the Government of the United States.”
In September 1996 she voted against a bill to increase border patrol personnel and to adopt other measures designed to stem the flow of illegal immigration into the U.S.
In May 2004 she voted "No" on requiring hospitals to report (to the federal government) illegal aliens who receive emergency medical treatment. That same month, she cast no vote on a separate proposal to deny public education to illegal aliens.
In February 2005 she voted against the Real ID Act, which proposed to: set minimal security requirements for state driver licenses and identification cards; require asylum applicants suspected of affiliating with terrorist groups to prove that they are indeed seeking to escape persecution in their homeland; and ensure that physical barriers to prevent illegal immigration would be expeditiously constructed where needed along the U.S.-Mexico border.
In December 2005 she voted against a bill calling for: the construction of some 700 miles of fencing along America's southern border; the establishment of a system requiring business owners to verify the legal status of all their employees; the detention of any person attempting to enter the U.S. illegally after October 1, 2006; an increase in the penalties on anyone attempting to smuggle illegal aliens into the U.S.; the annual provision of $250 million to pay state and local police agencies for their assistance in enforcing federal immigration laws; and funding for a program to deport "removable criminal aliens" in prison following the completion of their sentences, rather than releasing them into American communities.
In September 2006 she again voted against a bill authorizing the construction of 700 miles of double-layered fencing between the U.S. and Mexico. That same month, she voted against a proposal to grant state and local officials the authority to investigate, identify, and arrest illegal immigrants.
The U.S. Border Control, which "is dedicated to ending illegal immigration by securing our nation's borders and reforming our immigration policies," gave Waters a rating of 0 percent in 2005-2006.
The Federation for American Immigration Reform, which "seeks to improve border security, to stop illegal immigration, and to promote immigration levels consistent with the national interest [about 300,000 a year]," gave Waters a rating of 8 percent in 2007-2008
By contrast, the American Immigration Lawyers Association, which promotes open borders and an expansion of rights and liberties for illegal aliens, consistently gives Waters a 100 percent rating.
Civil Rights and Liberties
In June 1991 Waters voted in favor of the Civil Rights Act of 1991, which decreed that employers with fifteen or more workers would be considered guilty-until-proven-innocent of discrimination if their labor force did not statistically resemble the demographic makeup of the surrounding community. To ensure that there would be “racial balance” in the workforce, the Act banned job standards that were anything above the bare minimum -- so as to give employers enough latitude to hire based on racial considerations rather measurable qualifications.
In March 1995 Waters voted against the Private Property Protection Act, which required the federal government to compensate individuals whose property loses 20 percent or more of its value as a result of federal actions.
Waters joined with such eco-activist groups as the Rainforest Action Network and the Earth Island Institute in endorsing the Heritage Tree Preservation Act, which seeks to ban all logging in old-growth forests.
In April 2003 and again in October 2005, Waters voted "No" on banning lawsuits against gun manufacturers as punishment for violence that is committed with guns.
Abortion and the Rights of the Unborn
In November 1995, September 1996, March 1997, July 1998, April 2000, June 2003, and October 2003, Waters voted against legislation to ban the late-term abortion procedure commonly known as partial-birth abortion (a.k.a. "intact dilation and extraction"). According to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, in the year 2000 this procedure was performed approximately 2,200 times in the United States.
In July 2000, she voted in favor of an amendment to permit federal funding (with taxpayer dollars) for abortion procedures.
In September 1999, April 2001, and February 2004, she voted against the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, which proposed to make it an added criminal offense for someone to injure or kill a fetus while carrying out a crime against a pregnant woman.
In April 2005 and September 2006, she voted against the Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act, whose purpose was to prohibit the transportation of a minor across state lines to obtain an abortion without a parent's (or a legal guardian's) consent.
In December 2006 she voted against the Abortion Pain Bill, which mandated that abortion providers, prior to performing an abortion on a fetus older than 20 weeks, inform the mother that: (a) the fetus might feel pain during the procedure, and (b) the use of some pain-reducing drugs may have health risks associated with them.
As a result of her unwavering support for the unrestricted right to abortion-on-demand under any and all circumstances, Waters has consistently received ratings of 100 percent from NARAL and Planned Parenthood.
In July 1996 Waters voted in favor of “an amendment to suspend the federal definition of marriage contained in the bill when a state, through normal democratic procedures, establishes a different definition.” That same month, she voted against the Defense of Marriage Act, which specifically defined marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife.
In July 2006 she voted against a proposed constitutional amendment defining marriage in America, again, exclusively as the union of one man and one woman.
 Minoo Southgate, “Black Power, Nineties Style,” National Rebview (December 13, 1993), p. 47.
 Aldore Collier, “Maxine Waters: Telling It Like It Is in L.A.,” Ebony (October 1992), p. 38.
 “Maxine Waters: Straight Talk from South Central,” Ladies’ Home Journal (August 1992), p. 112.
 Aldore Collier, “Maxine Waters: Telling It Like It Is in L.A.,” Ebony (October 1992), p. 38.
 William Wilbanks, The Myth of a Racist Criminal justice System (Monterey, CA: Brooks/Cole Publishing Company, 1987), p. 33. John DiIulio, “My Black Crime Problem, and Ours,” City Journal (Spring 1996), p. 23.
 “Race and Crime,” Investor’s Business Daily (February 21, 1996).
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