Just two months into her new job as chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH) has noticed her Day Timer refuses to allow her to pencil in any free time at all.
But, that comes as no surprise.
She’s helped to avert a fiscal cliff disaster, saved social programs for the poor, advocated on behalf of the Voting Rights Act and promoted the renewal of the Violence Against Women Act – and she managed to pull it all off in 60 days.
Fudge continues to stump for Democrats who are scurrying to reach a deal to end the sequester which took effect on March 1.
“It’s been extremely busy,” said Fudge, the congresswoman from Ohio whose already left an indelible mark on the nation’s capital.
“We happen to be in a very busy cycle with Congress. There are many issues that we face such as immigration, jobs, the Voting Rights Act and so much more,” said Fudge, 60.
In January, Fudge was selected to replace Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II, (D-MO), a fiery preacher and the 22nd chair of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC).
Fudge said the mission of the CBC hasn’t changed since its inception in 1969.
“We are still here to speak for those who don’t have a voice,” she said. “We are still here to make sure that our people get their fair share as we talk about spending and funding programs.”
Fudge said she’s aware that African Americans are behind the proverbial 8-ball, specifically when the government talks about fiscal cliffs, sequesters and other measures. Those measures often lead to cutting or ending services like health care, early education and jobs that offer family-sustaining wages, she said.
Blacks are likely to suffer more than others when deep fiscal cuts are made, Fudge said.
There’s an axiom that says, ‘When white people have a cold, blacks have pneumonia.’ Fudge takes the adage seriously.
“We have to create an environment that makes people want to hire. When the federal government can’t make a decision as to what we’re going to do fiscally, that creates a lot of uneasiness in the (job) market,” she said. “The wrong way is to start cutting everything across the board.”
Fudge, who served two terms as mayor of Warrensville, Ohio, has made fighting poverty one of her top legislative priorities. Now, she’s charged with setting the political agenda for more than 40 black representatives in Congress and currently serves as the national spokesperson on issues that affect African Americans.
Fudge was elected to Congress in 2008 following the death of Stephanie Tubbs Jones, who served as Ohio’s congresswoman for a decade. Fudge served as Tubbs Jones’ chief of staff throughout her tenure, she not only learned the ropes but emerged as a politically savvy leader. The second-term congresswoman also has earned a reputation as a relentless advocate for the poor and the downtrodden.
“Obviously, one of my major issues is poverty and I’m on the Agriculture Committee. I make sure that our children have decent meals in schools,” Fudge said. “I have to make sure we don’t significantly cut food stamps and we make sure that our food banks are funded and that people have a place to live.”
She’s also concerned about the well-being of blacks and others.
President Barack Obama’s health care initiative provides Americans an opportunity to obtain health insurance, Fudge said. “[Overall], I think the president is doing a good job.”
However, Fudge said, many of the president’s initiatives are a direct result of the CBC’s efforts.
“… It is the Black Caucus that has its fingerprints on a lot of these programs people now see. Initiatives like Head Start, Early Head Start, the Pell Grants and so many other important things were born out of the Black Caucus,” Fudge said.
“We’ve gotten community clinics put in and things that help us, especially in the black community. The president’s jobs bill came as a direct result of the jobs tour the [CBC sponsored] last year. So, all of this means that we have to keep working hard,” she said.
Fudge continues to fight for an increase in the federal minimum wage. And, her work on behalf of legislation to protect women has finally paid off. The House passed the Violence Against Women Act on Feb. 28.
Fudge and her colleagues in the House worked to improve the measure by expanding protections in the bill to include members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community, along with Native American and immigrant communities.
“Underreported cases of domestic assault, dating violence, sexual assault and other acts of violence against women continue to be a serious problem in this country, and I hope that Congress’ bipartisan support of this legislation shows victims they are not alone,” Fudge said. “Passage of this legislation ensures victims of these crimes will continue to have options available to find the assistance they need.”