A potential contender on a shortlist to head the Department of Housing and Urban Development in President-elect Joe Biden’s incoming administration could face opposition during the Senate confirmation process over her past praise for a Communist Party member.
In 2017, Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., eulogized Oneil Marion Cannon, a top member of the Communist Party USA for decades, calling him a “friend and mentor.”
“As part of the [Independent Progressive Party], he used economic power to force employers to hire Black and Mexican American workers, using the slogan ‘don’t bank or buy where you can’t work,'” Bass said in her remarks. “He worked for decades to elect representatives of color to office, including Tom Bradley, Ed Roybal, and even campaigning at age 90 for Barack Obama.”
The speech came under scrutiny over the summer after Bass — the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus — emerged as a possible running mate on Biden’s ticket before he eventually picked Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif.
She denies being a communist.
In a statement to Politico in August, a spokesperson for Bass said her relationship with Cannon was similar to her relationship with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.
“Karen Bass has always been a Democrat and only a Democrat. The congresswoman is friends with Kevin McCarthy and is not a Republican. She knew Oneil Cannon but never shared the political ideology he may have had at one time in his life,” Zach Seidl, Bass’ spokesman, said in a statement.
Messages to representatives on Biden’s transition team and Bass’ office were not returned.
In an August interview with Fox News’ Chris Wallace, Bass walked back praise of deceased Cuban leader Fidel Castro. She faced questions over visits to the communist island in the 1970s and her remarks after Castro’s 2016 death in which she said: “the passing of the Comandante en Jefe is a great loss to the people of Cuba.”
Bass traveled to Cuba in 1973 with an organization called the Venceremos Brigade, a joint venture between the Castro regime and left-wing U.S. groups that organized trips for Americans to the country.
She told Wallace her views on Cuba developed over time and that she understood Castro’s government “was a brutal regime.”
“I absolutely would have not put that statement out,” she said. “After talking to my colleagues who represent the state of Florida [and] raised those concerns with me… lesson learned, would not do that again.
Bass is one of several contenders being considered to serve in Biden’s cabinet. Others reportedly being considered to run HUD include Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and Maurice Jones, a former HUD deputy secretary under former President Barack Obama.