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Fudge Leads Black Caucus during Tumultuous Times

Stacy M. Brown | 3/6/2013, 12:23 p.m.

Just two months into her new job as chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, Marcia Fudge 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-Missouri), 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."