David N. Cicilline was born on July 15, 1961, in Providence, Rhode Island. After earning a B.A. in political science from Brown University in 1983 and a J.D. from the Georgetown University Law Center in 1986, he worked as a public defender in the District of Columbia during 1986-87. Cicilline then returned to Rhode Island to practice law. In 1994 he began an eight-year stint as a Democratic member of the Rhode Island House of Representatives. From 2002-10 he served as mayor of Providence. And in 2010, voters in Rhode Island’s 1st Congressional District elected him to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he continues to serve as a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
In his 2010 congressional run, Cicilline had to work hard to overcome questions that arose about the character flaws of some people who were particularly close to him. For example, his former police driver was arrested for participating in a cocaine dealing ring, and Cicilline’s brother had recently served a federal prison term for a courthouse corruption scheme.
Like many Democrats, Cicilline has received support for his political pursuits from some high-profile members of the entertainment industry. In February 2011, for instance, he held a fundraiser at a Lady Gaga concert.
An unwavering foe of Voter ID laws, Cicilline in November 2011 signed a letter to Rhode Island Secretary of State A. Ralph Mollis, urging him to oppose the “disturbing trend” of “partisan plays” where “identification requirements” and “voter registration regulation” were being “used as weapons to achieve a preferred electoral outcome.” Four years later, Cicilline introduced legislation designed to automatically register people as voters when they got their driver’s licenses through the Department of Motor Vehicles.
In stark contrast to most congressional Democrats, Cicilline in 2012 made his support for President Barack Obama’s policies—many of which had proven to be deeply flawed and highly unpopular—a focal point of his campaign. Given the heavily Democratic composition of his voting district, however, this strategy never posed even the slightest threat to Cicilline’s chances for re-election.
In October 2013, Cicilline participated in a “No Cuts” rally that the Congressional Progressive Caucus hosted outside the U.S. Capitol. There, Cicilline and his political allies joined hands with citizen demonstrators to form a “human chain” in opposition to any budgetary cuts to Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid benefits.
In 2014 Cicilline supported President Obama’s decision to re-establish diplomatic ties with Communist Cuba. In February 2015, Cicilline was part of the first official House delegation to meet with Cuban government officials under the new policy.
Cicilline contends that Congress must address America’s “broken” immigration system by passing “comprehensive” reforms that will “help approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants emerge from the shadows” and pursue “a responsible path to citizenship.” Such reforms, he says, could “help businesses expand, foster innovation, increase productivity, contribute to long term wage growth,… help create more than 100,000 jobs every year … [and] reduce our national deficit by more than $800 billion over the next decade.” In January 2015, Cicilline joined Rep. Luis Gutierrez and a number of local leaders at the Providence Career and Technical Academy in Rhode Island for an “immigration forum” designed to educate illegal immigrants on how they could best take advantage of President Obama’s recently enacted executive amnesty orders—i.e., “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” (DACA) and “Deferred Action for Parental Accountability” (DAPA)—which together shielded millions of illegals from potential deportation.
In September 2015, Cicilline led a group of 72 House Democrats in composing a letter demanding that the Obama Administration “resettle a minimum of 200,000 [Middle Eastern] refugees by the end of 2016, including 100,000 Syrian refugees”—a figure many times higher than the 10,000 who were originally slated for designation as refugees. “It is our moral duty, as a nation founded on the principles of equality and freedom, to do what we can to assist our brethren who are in desperate turmoil, and are searching for the slightest gesture of goodwill,” wrote Cicilline and his colleagues.
Also in 2015, Cicilline co-sponsored Rep. Rosa DeLauro‘s “Support Assault Firearm Elimination and Education of our Streets Act,” a national gun-buyback program offering tax breaks to anyone who voluntarily surrendered their “assault weapons.” For a list of this bill’s additional co-sponsors, click here.
In March 2019, after special counsel Robert Mueller and his large team of investigators issued a report concluding that there was no evidence that Donald Trump had somehow colluded with Russian agents to tamper with the 2016 presidential election, Cicilline said there was still a “responsibility to examine the conduct” of the Trump campaign, “even if it doesn’t rise to the level of criminality.” “It’s a really impossible determination to make without actually reading the report, reading the conclusions of Mr. Mueller, reading the evidence that he gathered,” the congressman added. “So, I think it’s sort of unfair to expect anyone to write it off completely. If [Attorney General William] Barr is reporting that accurately, it seems as if they concluded there’s not sufficient evidence to charge folks that may be of less interest. but we still have a responsibility to make sure we protect the integrity of our democracy and make sure we don’t allow the Russians or anyone else to attack us again.”
In an April 2019 interview with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, Cicilline, seeking to find a pretext for impeaching President Trump, called for the imprisonment of any Trump administration officials who might fail to comply with congressional subpoenas:
“Congress cannot allow the president to prevent us from oversight. We have three things Congress can do if witnesses refuse to comply with a lawfully issued subpoena. One is, refer to the Department of Justice for prosecution because that’s a crime. We don’t have a lot of confidence Mr. Barr will do that. The second is to start a civil proceeding and get a citation from the court to bring that person into contempt and do it that way. But there’s a third method we can do right away. Since 1821, the Supreme Court has recognized the inherent right of Congress to hold individuals in contempt and to imprison them. That was reaffirmed in a case in 1935. Congress has the responsibility, and I would say the obligation to hold individuals in contempt who do not comply with a lawful subpoena who do not produce documents and we ought to be prepared to imprison them because we have the inherent right.”
On September 18, 2019, the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Middle East, North Africa, and International Terrorism joined the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Intelligence and Counterterrorism to hold a hearing about the threat that white nationalism allegedly posed to the United States. Citing President Trump’s recent reference to migrant caravan “invasions” at America’s southern border, and his assertion that Baltimore was a “rodent-infested” city, Cicilline, portraying these comments as racist, blamed Trump for fomenting white nationalism. “Hate groups are on a record high, white nationalist groups increasing by 50 percent,” said the congressman. He then attributed this trend partly to Trump: “[I]t’s obviously not helpful when we have political or civic leaders in the country that are using language that dehumanizes refugees or immigrants and speak about invasions and infestations and all of that kind of stuff.”
In January 2021, Cicilline drafted — along with fellow Democrat Representatives Ted Lieu and Jamie Raskin — an article of impeachment against President Donald Trump, accusing Trump of “inciting” a January 6 “insurrection” where several hundred people had swarmed into the Capitol building in Washington to protest what they viewed as an illegitimate presidential election outcome. The article of impeachment had 180 Democrat co-sponsors.
On January 14, 2021, Cicilline — who was known for demanding that the American people wear facemasks at all times in order to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic — was seen, on camera, removing his mask to sneeze while Rep. Yvette Clark was speaking at the podium just in front of him in the House of Representatives.
For an overview of Cicilline’s voting record and policy positions on a variety of key issues during his years in Congress, click here.
Further Reading: “David Cicilline” (Ballotpedia.org, Votesmart.org, & Keywiki.org); “R.I. Mayor Faces Questions in Congressional Run” (Newsmax, 3-7-2010); “Langevin, Cicilline Sign Letter Opposing Voter ID Laws” (GoLocalProv.com, 11-9-2011); “Democrats Introduce Universal Voter Registration Bill in House” (DailyKos.com, 6-11-2015); “House Dems Call for 10-Fold Increase of Syrian Refugees” (The Hill, 9-11-2015).