- Former Democratic Senator from California
Born in Brooklyn, New York on November 11, 1940, Barbara Boxer graduated with a BA in economics from Brooklyn College in 1962. She subsequently worked as a stockbroker from 1962-65; a journalist and editor with the Pacific Sun Newspaper from 1972-74; and a congressional aide to Democratic U.S. Representative John Burton from 1974-76. Burton, who became Boxer’s political mentor, had ties to both the Communist Party USA, and the World Peace Council (a Soviet front).
From 1977-83, Boxer was a member of the Marin County, California board of supervisors. When Rep. Burton retired from Congress in 1982, Boxer, also a Democrat, was elected to his vacated House seat and held it until 1992.
In 1988 Boxer voted against the provision of U.S. aid to the Nicaraguan “Contras” who were trying to overthrow their country’s Marxist-Leninist Sandinista government. When the Sandinistas announced in October 1989 that they would no longer comply with a ceasefire agreement they had previously reached with the Contras, the House of Representatives voted 379-29 in favor of a resolution deploring the Sandinistas’ action; Boxer was one of the 29 Democrats who opposed the resolution.
When U.S. Senator Alan Cranston (D-California) retired from public office in 1992, Boxer was elected to his vacated Senate seat and has held it ever since.
In 1996 Boxer was one of just 24 senators to vote against that year’s Welfare Reform Act, which instituted, for the first time, work requirements for beneficiaries of America’s largest federal cash-assistance program, Aid to Families with Dependent Children.
In February 1997, Boxer read into the Senate record a tribute to “celebrate the life” of the recently deceased Carlton Goodlett, a leading Bay Area NAACP official and Communist Party USA member. Boxer described Goodlett as an “inspiration to many young Americans”; a “leader in the truest sense”; and a man who “will forever be treasured and missed.”
In April 2002, Boxer, who at the time was serving on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, visited Fidel Castro‘s Cuba to discuss “California trade.” The trip was paid for by the Center for International Policy, a project of the Institute for Policy Studies.
In October 2002, Boxer was one of 23 U.S. Senators to oppose the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution.
In December 2004, Boxer—along with Senator Raul Grijalva, Rep. Dennis Kucinich, and Rep. Henry Waxman—provided a diplomatic courtesy letter for Medea Benjamin, Jodie Evans, and several other antiwar activists who wished to deliver a combined $600,000 in medical supplies and cash to the families of the terrorist insurgents who were fighting American troops in Fallujah, Iraq. The organizations sponsoring the delegation were Code Pink, Global Exchange, the Middle East Children’s Alliance, Peace Action, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Project Guerrero Azteca for Peace, United for Peace and Justice, and Voices in the Wilderness.
In early 2007, Boxer opposed President Bush’s decision to deploy a “surge” of 21,500 additional troops to Iraq. Aiming to “make it abundantly clear to our leaders that we oppose the war,” Boxer said “the best way to support the troops is to fully fund their return home as well as … programs that deal with the psychological and medical fallout of the folly of sending them to Iraq.” In December of that year, Boxer was one of only 24 senators to vote in favor of a proposal to end the surge promptly and bring the troops home. Ultimately the surge proved to be hugely successful, enabling the U.S. to emerge victorious in the war.
In September 2007 Boxer voted in favor of a bill that would have restored the right of terrorists detained in Guantanamo Bay to obtain a writ of habeas corpus, and hence access to American courts.
During the healthcare-reform debates of 2009, Boxer complained that the so-called Nelson Amendment—a proposal to ensure that no federal funds would be used to pay for abortion—discriminated against women. Said Boxer: “The men who have brought us this [amendment] don’t single out a procedure that’s used by a man, or a drug that is used by a man, that involves his reproductive health care, and say they [men] have to get a special rider). There’s nothing in this amendment that says if a man someday wants to buy Viagra for example, that his pharmaceutical coverage cannot cover it, that he has to buy a rider. I wouldn’t support that. And they shouldn’t support going after a woman, using her own private funds for her reproductive health care.”
In October 2012 Boxer denounced the anti-voter-fraud group True the Vote, which had petitioned election officials across the U.S. to review questionable and duplicate voter registrations, and to remove the names of deceased or otherwise ineligible voters from the rolls. Said Boxer: “I don’t believe this is ‘True the Vote.’ I believe it’s ‘Stop the Vote.’” Asking the Department of Justice to “protect Americans from voter intimidation,” the senator stated: “No group can be allowed to intimidate or interfere with this fundamental right that is essential for American democracy.”
In August 2013 Boxer called for raising the national minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.00 per hour. “That will make a huge difference,” she said. “… People are struggling. The difference between the very wealthy and the working poor has grown.”
That same month, Boxer claimed that a series of large wildfires which at that time were ravaging parts of California, served as evidence that “climate change is taking a toll.” Further, she exhorted “the deniers in Congress” to “open your eyes, breathe the air, and see what’s going on.”
In the summer of 2015, Boxer supported the nuclear deal that the Obama administration negotiated with Iran. (For details about that accord, click here.) Boxer had previously received financial support from the Iranian American Political Action Committee.
Boxer retired from the U.S. Senate in January 2017.
For an overview of Boxer’s Senate voting record on a number of key issues, click here.
For additional information on Barbara Boxer, click here.