Barbara Sue Levy Boxer (born November 11, 1940) is an American politician and lobbyist who served as a United States Senator
from 1993 to 2017. A member of the Democratic Party
, she previously served as the U.S. Representative
for California's 6th congressional district
from 1983 until 1993.
Born in Brooklyn
, New York City
, Boxer graduated from George W. Wingate High School
and Brooklyn College
. She worked as a stockbroker for several years before moving to California with her husband. During the 1970s, she worked as a journalist for the ''Pacific Sun
'' and as an aide to U.S. Representative John L. Burton
. She served on the Marin County
Board of Supervisors for six years and became the board's first female president. With the slogan "Barbara Boxer Gives a Damn", she was elected to the United States House of Representatives
in 1982, representing California's 6th district
Boxer won the 1992 election
for the U.S. Senate. Running for a third term in 2004
, she received 6.96 million votes, becoming the first person to ever get more than 6 million votes in a Senate election and set a record for the most votes in any U.S. Senate election in history, until her colleague, Dianne Feinstein
, the senior senator from California, surpassed that number in her 2012 re-election
. Boxer and Feinstein were the first female pair of U.S. Senators representing any state at the same time.
Boxer was the ranking member of the Environment and Public Works Committee
and the vice chair of the Select Committee on Ethics
. She was also the Democratic Chief Deputy Whip
Boxer did not seek re-election in 2016
. She was succeeded by former California Attorney General Kamala Harris
. In January 2020, Boxer joined Washington, D.C.
-based lobbying firm
Mercury Public Affairs as co-chairwoman.
Early life and family
Boxer, née Barbara Sue Levy, was born in Brooklyn
, New York
, to Jewish immigrants Sophie (née Silvershein; born in Austria) and Ira Levy. She attended public schools, and graduated from George W. Wingate High School
In 1962, she married Stewart Boxer and graduated from Brooklyn College
with a bachelor's degree
. While in college she was a member of Delta Phi Epsilon
sorority and was a cheerleader for the Brooklyn College basketball team.
Boxer worked as a stockbroker
for the following three years while her husband went to law school
. Later, the couple moved to Greenbrae
, Marin County, California
, and had two children, Doug and Nicole. She first ran for political office in 1972, when she challenged incumbent Peter Arrigoni, a member of the Marin County Board of Supervisors
, but lost a close election. Later during the 1970s, Boxer worked as a journalist for the ''Pacific Sun
'' and as an aide to John Burton, then a member of Congress. In 1976, Boxer was elected to the Marin County Board of Supervisors
, serving for six years. She was the Board's first female president.
On May 28, 1994, her daughter Nicole married Tony Rodham
, the younger brother of Hillary Clinton
, in a ceremony at the White House
attended by 250 guests.
["A Rose Garden Wedding"](_blank)
''The New York Times'', May 30, 1994. Last accessed March 23, 2008.
(It was the first White House wedding since Tricia Nixon
married Edward Cox
Before divorcing, they had a child Zachary, born in 1995. Zachary held a unique distinction of being both the grandson and nephew of sitting U.S. senators.
In 2006, the Boxers sold their house in Greenbrae, where they had lived for many years, and moved to Rancho Mirage
. Boxer's first novel, ''A Time to Run
'', was published in 2005 by San Francisco-based Chronicle Books
. Her second novel, ''Blind Trust'', was released in July 2009 by Chronicle Books.
At 4'11" (150 cm), Boxer would be one of the shortest members of the Congress. When addressing the chamber, she would sometimes stand on a portable platform dubbed "Boxer Box" carried by an aide.
Boxer, then a Marin County supervisor, was elected to the United States House of Representatives
in 1982, succeeding John Burton
. Her slogan was "Barbara Boxer Gives a Damn." In the House, she represented (Marin and Sonoma Counties) for five terms. She narrowly won her first election with 52 percent of the vote, but easily won reelection four times, never dropping below 67 percent of the vote.
Boxer was a member of the original Select Committee on Children, Youth, and Families
[Children, youth, and families: Beginning the assessment. Hearing before the Select Committee on Children, Youth, and Families; House of Representatives, Ninety-Eighth Congress, First Session](_blank)
''United States House of Representatives'', Washington, DC, 28 April 1984, Original document retrieved 19 January 2014 from ERIC at Ed.gov: Institution of Education Sciences.
that was established in 1983.
In 1992, Boxer was implicated in the House banking scandal
, which revealed that more than 450 congressional representatives and aides, herself included, wrote overdraft checks covered by overdraft protection by the House Bank. In response, she issued a statement saying "in painful retrospect, I clearly should have paid more attention to my account" and wrote a $15 check to the Deficit Reduction Fund for each of her 87 overdrafts.
In 1991, during the Anita Hill
Senate hearings, where Hill accused U.S. Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas
of sexual harassment, Boxer led a group of women House members to the Senate Judiciary Committee
– demanding that the all-white, all-male Committee of Senators take Hill's charges seriously.
In 1992 four-term incumbent Democratic Senator Alan Cranston
retired, creating an open seat contest
. In what was billed as the "Year of the Woman", Boxer beat fellow Rep. Mel Levine
and Lieutenant Governor Leo McCarthy
in the Democratic primary, winning 44% of the vote. In the general election, Boxer defeated Republican Bruce Herschensohn
, a conservative television political commentator from Los Angeles, by 4.9%. A last-minute revelation that Herschensohn had attended a strip club at least partially affected the outcome. In 1998, she won a second term
, beating sitting California State Treasurer Matt Fong
by 10.1% of the vote. After facing no primary opposition in the 2004 election
, Boxer defeated GOP
candidate Bill Jones
, the former California Secretary of State
, by 20%. In 2010, Boxer defeated GOP
candidate Carly Fiorina
, former chief executive officer of Hewlett-Packard
, by 10%.
* Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
** Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety, and Security
** Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Insurance
** Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard
** Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security
** Subcommittee on Science and Space
* Committee on Environment and Public Works
* Committee on Foreign Relations
** Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South and Central Asian Affairs
** Subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs
** Subcommittee on International Operations and Organizations, Human Rights, Democracy and Global Women's Issues
** Subcommittee on International Development and Foreign Assistance, Economic Affairs, and International Environmental Protection
* Select Committee on Ethics
A member of the Senate Democratic Leadership, Boxer served as the Democratic Chief Deputy Whip, which gives her the job of lining up votes on key legislation.
* Senate Oceans Caucus
* Senate Ukraine Caucus
The following is an incomplete list of legislation that Boxer introduced in the Senate:
* HIV Organ Policy Equity Act (S. 330; 113th Congress)
– a bill that would allow organs from HIV positive patients to be donated and transplanted into patients who are also HIV positive, a procedure that is currently illegal.
This change would allow hundreds of additional organ transplants to take place in the United States each year.
On January 6, 2005, Boxer joined Representative Stephanie Tubbs Jones
) in filing a U.S. Congressional objection to the certification of Ohio's Electoral College
votes in the 2004 U.S. presidential election
. She called the objection her "opening shot to be able to focus the light of truth on these terrible problems in the electoral system". The Senate voted the objection down 74–1; the House voted the objection down 267–31. It was only the second Congressional objection to an entire State's electoral delegation in U.S. history
; the first instance was in 1877.
As a superdelegate
, Boxer had declared that she would support the winner of the California primary
, which was won by Hillary Clinton
However, she reneged on that pledge and remained neutral, only officially backing Barack Obama
's candidacy the day after the last primaries, once he had garnered enough delegate votes to clinch the nomination.
Prior to Hillary Clinton
's announcement, on October 20, 2013, Senator Boxer was one of sixteen Democratic female senators to sign a letter endorsing Clinton as the Democratic nominee in the 2016 U.S. presidential election
In April 2017, Boxer served as the keynote speaker for the Environmental Student Assembly's Earth Month at the University of Southern California
. She has also served as an advisor to Lyft
and advocated against the passage of AB-5
, a California law that rewrote the rules of the gig economy
In January 2021, the inaugural committee of president-elect Joe Biden
returned a $500 donation from Boxer after Boxer registered as a foreign agent
on behalf of Hikvision
, a Chinese manufacturer of surveillance equipment. The company had been sanctioned by the US government in 2019 for its alleged involvement in the persecution of Uyghur Muslims
in the Xinjiang
Platform and votes
George W. Bush
Senator Boxer was, along with Iowa
Senator Tom Harkin
, one of only two Senate Democrats to support Wisconsin
Senator Russ Feingold
's resolution to censure
President George W. Bush
During the confirmation hearings for the United States Secretary of State
nominee Condoleezza Rice
in January 2005, Boxer challenged her to admit to alleged mistakes and false statements made by the Bush Administration in leading the United States into the 2003 invasion of Iraq
, and ultimately voted against confirmation, along with twelve other senators.
The dissent was the highest vote against a Secretary of State nominee since 1825 when Henry Clay
was so named.
Boxer voted against John Bolton
's nomination for U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations
in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
ed him on the Senate floor. Because of the strong Democratic
opposition, Bolton could not obtain Senate approval. However, President Bush bypassed the Senate by employing the constitutional right of recess appointment
, only the second time such an appointment has been used for a United States ambassador to the United Nations
since the UN's founding in 1945. Recess appointments themselves have been used numerous times by various presidents.
Boxer voted against the confirmation of Chief Justice of the United States
nominee John Roberts
, and against the confirmation of Associate Justice
nominee Samuel Alito
Senators Boxer and John Ensign
(R-NV) are the authors of the Invest in the USA Act. This legislation, which was signed into law in October 2004 as a small part of the more comprehensive American Jobs Creation Act, is intended to encourage American companies to bring overseas profits back to the United States, to create jobs in the U.S., and stimulate domestic economic growth.
In March 2004, Boxer offered an amendment to the Federal budget to create a $24 billion jobs reserve fund. The amendment would set aside funds for a variety of investments to improve the economy and create jobs by establishing a manufacturing jobs tax credit for companies that create jobs in the United States, expanding investment in science research and development, providing a tax credit to small businesses to pay for health insurance for their employees, and expanding trade adjustment assistance to help those who lose their jobs because of foreign trade
. The Boxer amendment would also end the tax break that companies receive after moving plants overseas.
On October 1, 2008, Boxer voted for Emergency Economic Stabilization Act
Senator Boxer was one of only eight members of the Senate to vote against the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999 before the Financial Crises.
On August 26, 2013, Boxer told ''The Ed Show
'' on MSNBC
that the federal minimum wage
should be raised to $10.00 an hour.
Boxer established the Excellence in Education award to recognize teachers, parents, businesses and organizations working to make positive changes in education. Since 1997 Senator Boxer has presented the Excellence in Education Award to 38 recipients.
Election and Electoral College reform
Boxer voted for the 2002 Help America Vote Act
, which mandated the use of voting machines across the country, among other provisions. On February 18, 2005, Senator Boxer and colleagues introduced the Count Every Vote Act of 2005, which would provide a voter-verified paper ballot for every vote cast in electronic voting
machines and ensure access to voter verification for all citizens. The bill mandates that this ballot be the official ballot for purposes of a recount. The bill sets a uniform standard for provisional ballots and requires the Federal Election Assistance Commission to issue standards that ensure uniform access to voting machines and trained election personnel in every community. The bill also mandated improved security measures for electronic voting machines. The bill did not pass.
Boxer (D-CA), also introduced a bill on the 15th of November 2016 calling for a constitutional amendment to abolish the Electoral College and to select future presidents by a simple national vote only. This was done six days after Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton, after winning the 2016 election.
Boxer opposed the nuclear energy
deal between the United States and India. Boxer believes India should not receive aid from the U.S. in the civilian nuclear energy sector until it breaks its relationship with Iran
Boxer successfully led the 2003 Senate floor battle to block oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
. In 2005, Boxer voted again to block oil drilling at ANWR.
Boxer has introduced the National Oceans Protection Act (NOPA) of 2005. Some of the provisions of this act are: strengthen ocean governance; protect and restore marine wildlife and habitats; address ocean pollution; improve fisheries management. The bill also addresses needs regarding marine science, research and technology, marine mammals
, coastal development, and invasive species
Boxer is an original cosponsor of Senator Jim Jeffords
' (I-VT) Clean Power Act
. This legislation would reduce emissions of three pollutants coming from power plants; sulfur dioxide
, nitrogen oxide
s, and mercury
, and also reduce emissions of carbon dioxide
Senator Boxer was the Senate sponsor of the Northern California Coastal Wild Heritage Wilderness Act
, which was signed into law by President George W. Bush
on October 17, 2006. The bill protected of federal land as wilderness
and of stream as a wild and scenic river
, including such popular areas as the King Range
and Cache Creek
. Senator Boxer worked with Senator Dianne Feinstein
and Representative Mike Thompson
(the bill's House sponsor) in a five-year effort to pass the legislation.
Boxer along with her colleague Dianne Feinstein voted in favor of subsidy payments to conventional commodity farm producers at the cost of subsidies for conservation-oriented farming.
In 1997, the Senate passed a Boxer resolution calling on the United States not to recognize the Taliban
as the official government of Afghanistan
because of its human rights abuses against women.
In 2002, Senator Boxer voted against the proposed US invasion of Iraq
. She has subsequently referred to that vote as the best vote of her career. She also voted against the first Gulf War
while a member of the House in 1991 and was a very vocal protester against the Vietnam War in the 1970s.
Boxer was a cosponsor of S. 495, or the Darfur Accountability Act of 2005
, which would impose sanctions against perpetrators of crimes against humanity
In 2012 she and a bipartisan group of six senators introduced a resolution condemning Russia for aiding Syrian President Bashar al-Assad
's government as the country faced civil war
In October 2002, Boxer voted against the joint resolution
passed by the US Congress
to authorize the use of military force by the Bush Administration against Iraq
In June 2005, Senators Boxer and Russ Feingold
of Wisconsin, cosponsored Senate Resolution 171 calling for a timeframe for US troop withdrawal from Iraq
Boxer's petition demanding an exit strategy from Iraq drew 107,218 signatures.
Boxer was sharply critical of US Army General David Petraeus
' testimony regarding the political and military situation of Iraq in 2007, charging him with reporting while wearing "rosy glasses".
Senator Boxer joined colleagues to pass a federal ban
on various semi-automatic firearm
s and established the COPS program.
In the wake of the 2016 Orlando nightclub shooting
, Boxer posted on Facebook that it was an "unspeakable tragedy" and she encouraged others to support "common-sense gun safety laws to protect our communities from these weapons of war."
Boxer co-sponsored the Matthew Shepard Act
, which expanded the federal definition of hate crimes to include crimes based on the victim's sexual orientation
and gender identity
Boxer was part of a coalition to increase medical research to find cures for diseases. In 2007, she authored successful bipartisan legislation with Senator Gordon Smith
to combat HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis
globally. In 1997, she authored a Patients' Bill of Rights. She has written a bill to make health insurance
tax-deductible and one to let any American buy into the same health insurance program that members of Congress have. She supports comprehensive prescription drug coverage through Medicare
and the right of all consumers to purchase lower-cost prescription drugs re-imported from Canada.
In October 2002, Boxer urged the Bush Administration
to take specific steps to address the causes of the steep increase in autism
cases in California. She wrote Health and Human Services
(HHS) Secretary Tommy Thompson
to establish a common national standard for the diagnosis of autism
; instruct the CDC and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
to convene a task force to review the current literature on autism and conduct its own study if necessary; and direct the National Institutes of Health
(NIH) and the Centers for Disease Control
(CDC) to work with the states to create a national chronic disease database.
Boxer is an advocate for embryonic stem-cell research
, which has the potential to help those with diabetes
, Parkinson's disease
, Alzheimer's disease
, spinal cord injuries, and other diseases.
Senator Boxer supports PIPA
The Human Rights Campaign
gave Boxer ratings of 100%, 88% and 100% for the 107th
, and 109th
sessions of Congress, indicating support for the HRC's slate of pro-gay rights legislative issues. In 1996, she was one of fourteen Senators to vote against the Defense of Marriage Act
and also voted against the Federal Marriage Amendment
in 2004 and 2006, although when San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom issued a directive
to the city-county clerk to issue marriage
licenses to same-sex couples
she stated that she supported California's domestic partnership law
but agreed with its definition that marriage was between a man and a woman. However, her 2010 re-election campaign website states that "Senator Boxer supports marriage equality." She opposed Proposition 8
, a constitutional amendment that prohibited same-sex marriage in California, and supported the Uniting American Families Act
Boxer has come out against reforming marijuana policy and is opposed to the California Ballot measure to legalize and tax marijuana for those 21 and older in the state.
After the September 11 attacks
, Boxer authored a bill to protect commercial airliners against attacks by shoulder-fired missiles, and wrote the law allowing airline pilots with special training to carry guns in the cockpit.
Boxer wrote the High-Tech Port Security Act, and sponsored the Chemical Security Act to address terrorist threats against chemical plants. Senator Boxer also cosponsored comprehensive rail security legislation.
Boxer maintains a strong stance in support of reproductive rights
and the pro-choice movement
. Boxer authored the Freedom of Choice Act
of 2004 and participated in the floor fight for passage of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act
Boxer is an original cosponsor of the Title X Family Planning Services Act of 2005, S.844, by Senator Hillary Clinton
(D-NY). This legislation aims to improve access to women's health care. It authorizes funding for family planning
services grants; allows states to provide such services to individuals who may not be eligible for Medicaid
; prohibits health insurance providers from excluding contraceptive services, drugs or devices from benefits; establishes a program to disseminate information on emergency contraception
; requires hospitals receiving federal funding to offer emergency contraception to victims of sexual assault
; provides grants to public and private entities to establish or expand teen pregnancy prevention programs; and requires that federally funded education programs about contraception
be medically accurate and include information about health benefits and failure rates.
She was strongly critical of the Stupak-Pitts Amendment
, which would prevent taxpayer-funded abortions possibly resulting in women not being able to pay with their own funds for abortion coverage Affordable Health Care for America Act
Boxer supports the current system of Social Security
, and opposed President George W. Bush
's plan for partial privatization of Social Security.
In June 2008 Boxer spoke in the Senate in opposition to the FISA Amendments Act of 2008
, a pending bill in the United States Congress to amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act
, and later broke with her counterpart Sen. Dianne Feinstein
and voted against it.
Boxer had a very progressive voting record. Project Vote Smart
provides the following results from congressional scorecards.
* American Civil Liberties Union
– 83% for 2005–2006
* Americans for Democratic Action
– 95% for 2006
* American Land Rights Association
– 11% for 2006
* Americans for Tax Reform
– 5% for 2006
– 100% in 2006
* Campaign for America's Future
– 100% for 2005–2006
* Conservative Index-John Birch Society
– 20% for Fall 2004
* Children's Defense Fund
– 100% for 2006
* Drum Major Institute
– 100% for 2005
* Family Research Council
– 0% for 2006
– 17% for 2006
* Gun Owners of America
– 0% for 2006
* Humane Society of the United States
– 100% for 2005–2006
* League of Conservation Voters
– 100% for 2006
* NARAL Pro-Choice America
– 100% for 2006
* National Association of Wheat Growers
– 0% for 2005
* National Education Association
– 100% for 2005–2006
* National Federation of Independent Business
– 0% for 2005–2006
* National Journal
– Composite liberal score of 95% for 2006
* National Organization for Women
– 96% for 2005–2006
* National Rifle Association
– F for 2006
* National Right to Life Committee
– 0% for 2005–2006
* National Taxpayers Union
– 11% for 2006
* Population Connection
– 100% for 2006
* Republican Liberty Caucus
– 10% for 2005
* Secular Coalition for America
– 90% on 2006 scorecards
* United States Chamber of Commerce
– 25% for 2006
Criticizing Condoleezza Rice's judgment
Boxer criticized Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
's judgment in relation to the war in Iraq
: "I personally believe – this is my personal view – that your loyalty to the mission you were given, to sell the war, overwhelmed your respect for the truth."
In January 2007, Boxer was in the news for comments she made when responding to Bush's plans to send an additional 20,000 troops to Iraq
. "Who pays the price?" Boxer asked Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. "I'm not going to pay a personal price. My kids are too old and my grandchild is too young. You're not going to pay a personal price with an immediate family. So who pays the price? The American military and their families... not me, not you." When Rice interjected, Boxer responded by saying, "Madam Secretary, please. I know you feel terrible about it. That's not the point. I was making the case as to who pays the price for your decisions. And the fact that this administration would move forward with this escalation with no clue as to the further price that we're going to pay militarily... I find really appalling."
Boxer has made cameo appearances as herself in several television shows, including ''Murphy Brown
and ''Curb Your Enthusiasm
'' (2007), as well as a cameo (as herself) in the 2000 film ''Traffic
On November 2, 2005, she made an appearance on ''The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
'' to discuss her new novel ''A Time To Run''.
In September 2012, it was reported that Boxer and Republican Senator Olympia Snowe
would appear together in an NBC
sitcom. On September 20, 2012, she and Senator Snowe appeared in the fifth season premiere
of ''Parks and Recreation
''. Boxer later returned to ''Parks and Recreation'' alongside several other U.S. senators in early 2015 in the seventh season
episode "Ms. Ludgate-Dwyer Goes to Washington."
In November 2016, Boxer appeared in an episode of ''Chelsea
'', presented by Chelsea Handler
, entitled "Do Not Despair About Our Country", filmed shortly after the result of the 2016 US presidential election
was known, during which Handler wept about the result.
Awards and honors
Boxer has been awarded two Doctor of Laws
honorary degrees, one from Mills College
and the other from Dominican University of California
The Foundation for Ethics in Public Service has accused Boxer of failing to disclose real property on her Personal Financial Disclosure Reports between 2002 and 2010. Boxer failed to disclose a million dollar home she owns.
Major speeches and statements
Transcript from the Confirmation Hearing of Condoleezza Rice, January 18, 2005
July 20, 2005
Addressing World Affairs Council of Northern California (Video), October 13, 2006
Boxer was first elected to the Senate by a 4.9% margin in 1992. She was reelected in 1998, in 2004, and in 2010.
* Women in the United States House of Representatives
* Women in the United States Senate
* Johnston, Robert D"Barbara Boxer"
Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia
Senator Barbara Boxer
official U.S. Senate website
"Barbara Boxer: Rice Hearings and the 2004 Vote"
Terry Gross, ''Fresh Air
'', NPR, February 10, 2005
"Barbara Boxer Interview"
Ruth Conniff, ''The Progressive
'', July 2005
Barbara Boxer speaks at The World Affairs Council of Northern California
video, October 13, 2006
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