Suzanne Bonamici was born on October 14, 1954, in Detroit, Michigan. She earned an associate degree from Lane Community College's Legal Assistant Program in 1978, a B.A. in journalism from the University of Oregon in 1980, and a J.D. from the University of Oregon School of Law in 1983. Bonamici subsequently worked as a consumer protection attorney for the Federal Trade Commission in Washington, DC. She then ran a private law practice in Oregon from 1986-92, specializing in the representation of small businesses. After subsequently interrupting her professional career for several years in order to stay home and raise her young children, Bonamici became a legislative assistant in the Oregon State House of Representatives in 2001. She then served as a Democratic representative in that same institution from 2006-08, and was a member of the Oregon State Senate from 2008-12. In 2012 the voters in Oregon's 1st Congressional District elected Bonamici to the U.S. House of Representatives, where she soon joined the Congressional Progressive Caucus. In her successful 2014 re-election campaign, Bonamici ran on both the Democrat and Working Families Party tickets.
A key supporter of Bonamici's political endeavors is the Council for a Livable World (CLW), which has praised the congresswoman's “strong progressive positions on foreign policy and defense issues.” Specifically, says CLW, Bonamici “believes the United States has a moral obligation to lead international efforts that will reduce nuclear weapons stockpiles”; “supports ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban and opposes developing new nuclear weapons systems”; “supports continuing and enhancing diplomatic relations with Iran”; and “believes that our troops have done their jobs in Iraq and Afghanistan and it is time to bring them home.”
Additional key backers of Bonamici include the Planned Parenthood Action Fund and J Street.
An outspoken advocate of a two-state solution vis-a-vis the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, then-State Senator Bonamici was a signatory to the so-called Cohen-Yarmuth-Connolly letter, a J Street initiative named after congressional Democrats Steve Cohen (Tennessee), John Yarmuth (Kentucky), and Gerry Connolly (Virginia). Their letter exhorted the Obama administration to take a more active role in the Mideast peace process, and to effectively push Israel into making concessions to Palestinian terror groups. “Support for a two-state resolution,” said the letter, was “inseparable” from Israel's “very survival as a democratic homeland for the Jewish people.”
In November 2014 Bonamici issued a statement in support of President Obama's 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. “I am pleased that President Obama is taking action to bring millions of aspiring Americans out of the shadows to contribute to our country’s future,” said Bonamici. Moreover, the congresswoman has advocated the “permanent” implementation of “comprehensive immigration reform” that offers a path-to-citizenship for the millions of illegal aliens who are currently residing in the United States.
Bonamici condemned the 2013 Supreme Court ruling that struck down, as anachronistic, a Voting Rights Act provision requiring mainly Southern states to undergo—based on the presumption of their continuing racist tendencies—special federal scrutiny before being permitted to change their election laws in any way (e.g., by instituting Voter ID requirements or reconfiguring their voting districts). By Bonamici's calculus, the Court's “disappointing” and “wrongheaded.” decision ran the risk of “disenfranchising minority voters.”
In a similar vein, Bonamici believes that Voter ID laws “often restrict voting access for minority, military, disabled, and low-income voters, as well as seniors and college students.” To address this matter, she signed on as a co-sponsor of the Voter Empowerment Act, which, by Bonamici's telling, was crafted to “prohibit the egregious practices that are designed to prevent people from having their ballot counted.”
During her tenure in Congress, Bonamici has voted:
- against the 2015 Justice for Victims of Iranian Terrorism Act, a bill that sought to prohibit economic sanctions against Iran from being lifted unless the Iranian government first agreed to pay court-ruled fines for judgments related to terrorism;
- against the 2013 No Subsidies Without Verification Act, which called for American Health Benefit Exchanges to verify the eligibility of individuals applying for premium tax credits;
- against a 2015 bill calling for the prohibition of federal funding to any state or local governments that practice “sanctuary” policies which prevent law enforcement from investigating the citizenship or immigration status of criminal suspects; and
- against separate bills (in 2014 and 2015) authorizing the construction and operation of the Keystone XL Pipeline, which would transport petroleum from Canadian oil sands to U.S. refineries.
For a broader overview of Bonamici's voting record on a variety of key issues, click here, here, and here.