Born on September 13, 1973 in New Orleans, Louisiana, Cedric Levon Richmond holds a BA from Morehouse College (1995) and a JD from the Tulane University School of Law (1998). He is also a graduate of the John F. Kennedy School of Government’s Executive Education Program. Richmond, a Democrat, launched his political career in 2000 when he began an eight-year stint in the Louisiana State House of Representatives. In 2010 he was elected to represent Louisiana’s 2nd Congressional District in the U.S. House, where he also served as a member of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC). He chaired the CBC from 2017-19.
Richmond has been particularly outspoken on the subject of criminal-justice practices, which he says should “focus fewer resources on incarceration and more on education of our youth”—i.e., “investing in jobs and education, instead of squandering tax dollars building more prisons.”
Citing the famous Statue of Liberty inscription that reads, in part, “Give me your tired, your poor,” Richmond is similarly adamant in claiming that Congress has a “moral” imperative to pass “comprehensive” immigration reform legislation that would properly “welcom[e]” the roughly “11 million people” residing illegally in the United States by giving them legal status. Many of those intended beneficiaries, he explains, are already “fully integrated into the fabric of our society,” “have proven to be an asset to this nation’s growth and its rich cultural diversity,” and have shown themselves “willing to sacrifice so much to join us as neighbors and fellow citizens.” By contrast, says Richmond, “a piecemeal approach” to immigration reform would be the equivalent of merely applying “small band-aids” to the “massive problem” of “a broken system that disrupts families and costs the taxpayer billions for investigations, incarcerations and deportations.” Moreover, the congressman maintains that a sweeping program of amnesty or earned citizenship would ultimately “add $1.5 trillion to the U.S. economy, increase revenues to reduce our deficits, and unleash increased economic growth as 11 million new citizens spend and invest along-side the rest of America.”
When Republican U.S. Congressman Peter King in 2012 called for hearings on the dangers posed by the radicalization of American Muslims, Richmond complained that King’s probe did not extend also to non-Islamic radicals. “The problem,” said Richmond, “… is that we’re only talking about the 90 percent”—a tacit, if unwitting, acknowledgment of the fact that Muslims are responsible for the overwhelming majority of terrorism in the U.S. and abroad. “It’s the 10 percent that we’re not talking about that keeps me up at night.”
In 2013 Richmond co-sponsored the Paycheck Fairness Act (PFA), aimed at “eradicating unfair pay disparities [between men and women] in the workplace.”
A great admirer of President Barack Obama, Richmond, in a 2014 campaign ad for incumbent U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, lamented that Republicans had theretofore “shown our president so much disrespect.” “They said he wasn’t a U.S. citizen, they even sued him and [would like to] impeach him,” Richmond added.
In January 2015, Richmond and his fellow CBC members objected strenuously when Republican House Speaker John Boehner—without first asking President Obama for his approval—invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to Congress on March 3rd about the gravity of the growing Iranian nuclear threat and his “profound disagreement” with the deal that the Obama Administration was pursuing with Iran. Richmond was one of numerous Democrats who, citing Netanyahu’s act of “disrespect” against Obama, boycotted the speech. Further, Richmond accused Congressman Boehner of being “very disrespectful to this president” in a way that was “silly and petty.”
By Richmond’s calculus, Voter ID laws constitute “very, very alarming” and highly unjust “hurdles and obstacles” that interfere with the ability of nonwhite minorities to vote in political elections. In March 2015, he joined fellow Democrats in introducing a Voter Empowerment Act (VEA) that would allow people to become registered voters online or by telephone. This, said Richmond, would help “safeguard the right to vote for every American,” “remov[e] unnecessary barriers between voters and the ballot box,” and “utiliz[e] modern technology to bring our elections into the 21st Century.” Moreover, the VEA called for permitting convicted felons to vote unless they were in prison at the time of an election, and requiring that federal election cycles everywhere include at least 15 consecutive days of early voting periods.
In January 2017, Richmond, who was chairman of the CBC, accused the Senate Judiciary Committee of placing him and two other black lawmakers — Sen. Cory Booker and Georgia Rep. John Lewis — “at the back of the bus” by having them testify at the end of a confirmation hearing for Jeff Sessions, whom President Donald Trump had nominated for the post of Attorney General. “I want to express my concerns about being made to testify at the very end of the the witness panels,” Richmond said in his opening remarks. “To have a senator, a House member, and a living civil rights legend [John Lewis] testify at the end of all of this is the equivalent of being made to go to the back of the bus.”
During a House Judiciary Committee hearing in June 2017, Richmond became enraged when Republican Rep. Steve King noted that the astronomical homicide rate in El Salvador was similar to the rate that had existed in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Richmond responded with the following remarks:
In August 2017, Richmond accused President Trump of being “willfully uniformed” about the racism and discrimination plaguing black Americans. He also complained that Trump’s recent comments about police brutality and policing had offended and harmed black people: “His [Trump’s] remark that ‘You can go to war zones in countries that we are fighting and it’s safer than living in some of our inner cities’ is offensive to the black community. His encouragement of police brutality … makes the black community less safe. His Justice Department’s push to revive the failed war on drugs disproportionately hurts the black community, as does its recent hint that it plans to attack affirmative action. The administration’s policies are blatantly hostile to the interests of communities of color.” The congressman also lauded the Black Lives Matter movement for “helping to make this country great by standing up and speaking out against police brutality and inequality.”
In October 2017, Richmond condemned White House Chief of Staff John Kelly’s assertion that a “lack of an ability to compromise [had] led to the Civil War,” and that “men and women of good faith on both sides made their stand where their conscience had them make their stand.” Said the congressman: “The Civil War was not a disagreement between ‘men and women of good faith on both sides.’ It was a struggle for the soul of this country. Thankfully, the right side won the war and slavery is no longer the law of the land. The Congressional Black Caucus is not surprised by the Trump White House’s repeated attempts to whitewash history.”
In a January 2018 discussion about President Donald Trump on CNN Tonight, Richmond was asked by anchor Don Lemon: “Do you think he cares about black people?” The congressman replied: “I don’t. If you listen to his words, or if you watch his actions, let’s just take some numbers. He’s appointed — or nominated one black federal judge. He’s nominated one black US attorney. And when you start talking about the criminal justice system, that’s a key area for African-American men. And they just — and if you watch [Attorney General] Jeff Sessions’ actions, it’s just inconsistent…. [W]e see the racism coming out in this immigration overhaul, where, he wants to not talk about illegal immigration, which, by the way, he made the DREAMers illegal. They were legal until he decided to take action. But when you start talking about diversity visas and you start talking about family reunification, you’re talking about legal immigration. And he — we could just use his words. He wants more people from Norway, as opposed to Africa, El Salvador.”
During his years in Congress, Richmond voted on a variety of key issues as follows:
For additional information on Richmond’s voting record on a range of important issues during his years in Congress, click here.
In 2019, Richmond was named the first national co-chairman of Joe Biden‘s 2020 presidential campaign. On September 5, 2020, he was named a co-chair of Biden’s presidential transition team. On November 17, 2020, Richmond announced he would leave Congress in January 2021 to serve as Senior Advisor to the President and as Director of the Office of Public Liaison.
● On September 9, 2021, Richmond stated that President Joe Biden would “run over” any Republican governors who might try to resist his newly announced federal mandates requiring tens of millions of workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19. “The one thing I admire about this president,” said Richmond, “is the fact that we are always going to put people above politics. And those governors that stand in the way, I think, it was very clear from the president’s tone [in his speech] today that he will run over them.”
Further Reading: “Cedric Richmond” (Votesmart.org)