Sheila Jackson Lee

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Sheila Jackson Lee
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Texas's 18th district
Assumed office
January 3, 1995
Preceded by Craig Washington
Member of the Houston City Council from the At-large #4 District
In office
January 2, 1990 – January 3, 1995
Preceded by Anthony Hall
Succeeded by John Peavy
Personal details
Born Sheila Jackson
(1950-01-12) January 12, 1950 (age 69)
Queens, New York
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Elwyn C. Lee
Children 2
Residence Houston, Texas
Alma mater Yale University
University of Virginia Law School
Profession Attorney, Judge
Religion Seventh-day Adventist

Sheila Jackson Lee (born January 12, 1950) is the U.S. Representative for Texas's 18th congressional district, serving since 1995. The district includes most of inner-city Houston. She is a member of the Democratic Party.

Early life and education

Jackson Lee graduated from Jamaica High School in Queens. She earned a B.A. in political science from Yale University in 1972, followed by a J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1975.[1] She is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority.[2]

Early political career

Jackson Lee made three unsuccessful attempts at local judgeships before becoming a municipal judge from 1987 to 1990.[3] Jackson Lee, along with Sylvia Garcia, was appointed by then Mayor of Houston Kathy Whitmire. In 1989 she won the at-large position for a seat on the Houston City Council, serving until 1994.[3] While on the city council, Jackson Lee helped pass a safety ordinance that required parents to keep their guns away from children.[4] She also worked for expanded summer hours at city parks and recreation centers as a way to combat gang violence.[5]

U.S. House of Representatives



In 1994, Jackson Lee challenged four-term incumbent U.S. Congressman Craig Washington in the Democratic primary.[3] Washington had come under fire for opposing several projects that would have benefited the Houston area.[6] Jackson Lee defeated Washington in a rout, taking 63% to Washington's 37%.[7] The victory was tantamount to election in this heavily Democratic, black-majority district. In the general election, she defeated Republican nominee Jerry Burley 73%-24%.[8]


During this time period, Jackson Lee was never challenged in the Democratic primary. She won re-election during this time with at least 76% of the vote.[9]


For the first time in her congressional career, Jackson Lee was challenged in the Democratic primary; her opponents were Houston City Councilmember Jarvis Johnson and Sean Roberts. She defeated them 67%-28%-5%.[10]

It was reported that in October 2010 Jackson Lee was “asking the Department of Justice to investigate whether tea party groups are intimidating black and Hispanic voters in her district.” She requested that Attorney General Eric Holder send poll monitors to make sure that a local group wasn't stopping people from voting.[11]

She won the general election with 70% of the vote, the lowest winning percentage of her career.[12]


In 2012, Jackson Lee was not challenged in the Democratic primary and won the general election with 75% of the vote.[13]


Prior to the 110th Congress, Jackson Lee served on the House Science Committee and on the Subcommittee that oversees space policy and NASA.[citation needed] She is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus,[14] and a CBC whip.[6]

Worst boss

In 2011 she was reported to have one of the highest staff turnovers in Congress and to be one of the worst bosses. The Huffington Post and Houston Chronicle reported that she had gone through 11 chiefs of staff in 11 years.[15][16] In 2011 she was named as one of the "worst bosses in Washington" by "Daily Caller."[17] The Huffington Post stated that "Jackson Lee regularly appears on Washingtonian magazine's list of the “Best and Worst of Congress” as the “meanest” member of House of Representatives."[15][18] That reputation as the worst boss on Capitol Hill continued; in 2012 Washingtonian again listed her as the meanest member of the House,[19] a report in 2013 concluded that "the veteran Texas Democrat had the highest turnover rate for all of Congress over the past decade."[20]

Foreign policy

In 2000, she favored permanently normalizing trade status for China, arguing that it would aid both human rights and Houston's economy.[21]

Jackson Lee traveled to the 2001 World Conference against Racism in South Africa, and has backed sanctions against Sudan.[22] On April 28, 2006, Jackson Lee, along with four other members of Congress and six other activists, was arrested for disorderly conduct in front of Sudan's embassy in Washington. They were protesting the role of Sudan's government in ethnic cleansing in Darfur.[23]

Jackson Lee has urged better relations between the U.S. and Venezuela, which she describes as a friendly nation. She said the U.S. should reconsider its ban on selling F-16 fighter jets and spare parts to that country. The U.S. State Department bans such sales due to "lack of support" for counter-terrorist operations and Venezuela's relations with Iran and Cuba.[24][25]

In July 2010 Jackson Lee said: "Today, we have two Vietnams, side by side, North and South, exchanging and working. We may not agree with all that North Vietnam is doing, but they are living in peace. I would look for a better human rights record for North Vietnam, but they are living side by side.”[26] It was noted that Vietnam had not been split for four decades.[27][28]


Jackson Lee is active on immigration issues.[29] She has proposed increasing border security and increasing opportunities for legalization among those living in the United States. She has opposed a guest worker program, saying that the idea of guest: "connotate[s] `invite, come,' and, at the same time, it misleads because you ask people to come for a temporary job of three to six years and they have to leave if they don't have another job and I would think that they would not."[30]

Accusations against Tea Party

Speaking in July 2010 at the NAACP national convention, Jackson Lee compared the Tea Party to the KKK.[31]

Health Care

Jackson Lee said in January 2011 that repealing the health care law would be in violation of the Constitution. She argued that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is constitutional under the Commerce Clause, and that repealing it would violate both the Fifth and the Fourteenth Amendments.[32][33][34]


At a Homeland Security Committee hearing on radical Muslims in the US, held in March 2011, Jackson Lee said that Peter King's hearings were helping al-Qaeda and “going the same route as Arizona.” She complained that the hearings were scaring Muslim Americans and called them “an outrage.”[35]


On September 27, 2013, Jackson Lee introduced the Essential Transportation Worker Identification Credential Assessment Act (H.R. 3202; 113th Congress), a bill that would direct the United States Department of Homeland Security to assess the effectiveness of the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) program.[36] The bill would require an independent assessment of how well the TWIC program improves security and reduces risks at the facilities and vessels it is responsible for.[37]

Committee assignments

Caucus memberships

Jackson Lee is or has been a member of a number of caucuses, including: the 9-11 Commission Caucus, the Building a Better America Caucus (BABAC), the Congressional Caucus on Global Road Safety, and the Congressional Human Rights Caucus. Task forces in which she has participated include Children and Families, Homeland Security, Immigration, and Katrina. She has been the co-chair of the Congressional Algeria Caucus, the Congressional Pakistan Caucus, the Democratic Outreach Task Force, and the US-Afghan Caucus. Jackson Lee has also been a member of the House Democratic Steering Committee.

Personal life

Jackson Lee moved to Houston after her husband, Elwyn C. Lee, took a job at the University of Houston. Her husband now holds a dual position of Vice Chancellor and Vice President for Student Affairs of the University of Houston System and the University of Houston, respectively.[1]

Space program

In 1997, while on a trip to the Mars Pathfinder operations center in California, Jackson Lee confused the planet Mars with Earth's own moon, asking whether the Pathfinder had succeeded in taking a picture of the flag planted on Mars by Neil Armstrong in 1969.[38]

Hurricane naming

Jackson Lee complained in 2003 that storm names were too white. “All racial groups should be represented,” she said, and asked officials to “try to be inclusive of African-American names.”[39]

Foreign travel

In May, 2015, The Washington Post reported Jackson Lee took a trip to Azerbaijan paid for by the government of that country.[40][41]

Confederate flag issue

On Thursday, July 9, 2015, Representative Jackson Lee and others who were engaged in a debate over the Confederate battle flag produced an erroneous reproduction of what they thought was the original flag. The original battle flag contained 13 stars representing each state of the Confederacy as of 1861. The flag that Representative Jackson Lee presented to members of Congress contained 17 stars.[42]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Sheila Jackson Lee: Biography". Retrieved September 14, 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Magagnini, Stephen (January 1, 2008). "Pride and comfort ; National black sorority 'gathers for the specific purpose of being selfless'". Beaumont Enterprise. Beaumont, Tex. p. B.1.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 FELDMAN, CLAUDIA (February 19, 1995). "SHEILA JACKSON LEE GOES TO WASHINGTON". Houston Chronicle. p. 6.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. ROBINSON, JAMES (April 23, 1992). "Council moves to keep guns away from kids". Houston Chronicle. p. 1.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "FOR CONGRESS, DIST. 18/Recommending nomination of Sheila Jackson Lee". Houston Chronicle. February 13, 1994. p. 2.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. 6.0 6.1 Tim Fleck (20 February 1997). "What's Driving Miss Shelia?". Houston Press.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "TX District 18 - D Primary Race - Mar 08, 1994". Our Campaigns. Retrieved 2013-06-13.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "TX District 18 Race - Nov 08, 1994". Our Campaigns. Retrieved 2013-06-13.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "Candidate - Sheila Jackson-Lee". Our Campaigns. Retrieved 2013-06-13.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "TX District 18 - D Primary Race - Mar 02, 2010". Our Campaigns. Retrieved 2013-06-13.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "Sheila Jackson Lee wants DOJ to monitor tea partiers at polls". Politico. 28 October 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. "TX - District 18 Race - Nov 02, 2010". Our Campaigns. Retrieved 2013-06-13.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. "U.S. House District 18 Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Houston)". The Texas Tribune. Retrieved May 13, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. Wright, James (September 23, 1995). "Who's Who in the Congressional Black Caucus". Afro - American Red Star. 104 (6). Washington, D.C. p. B1.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. 15.0 15.1 "Sheila Jackson Lee, Worst Boss In Congress? Goes Through 11 Chiefs Of Staff In 11 Years". The Huffington Post. June 20, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. Molly Harbarger (June 20, 2011). "Cuellar sees heavy turnover in Washington staff". San Antonio Express-News.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. Jonathan Strong (March 2, 2011). "Congressional bosses from Hell: Sheila Jackson Lee". The Daily Caller.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. Jonathan Strong (January 24, 2013). "Report: Sheila Jackson Lee is 'worst boss' on Capitol Hill". Houston Chronicle.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. "Best and Worst of Congress 2012". Washingtonian (magazine). August 29, 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. Luke Rosiak (January 22, 2013). "Who are the best and worst bosses on Capitol Hill?". The Washington Times.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. "Small firms to get help in exporting". Houston Chronicle. October 7, 2000. p. 2.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  22. LEVINE, SAMANTHA (April 30, 2006). "DELEGATION WATCH / Jackson Lee backs her vow on Darfur / Calls her arrest a statement on the war and genocide". Houston Chronicle. p. 10.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  23. Jim Doyle, Five members of Congress arrested over Sudan protest, San Francisco Chronicle, April 28, 2006. Retrieved 25 September 2006.
  24. "Jackson Lee wants ban on fighter jets reconsidered" at the Wayback Machine (archived February 25, 2007). Houston Chronicle. February 21, 2007
  25. "Jackson Lee tries to smooth Chavez ties / Her Venezuela trip, she says, was an attempt to protect jobs here." Houston Chronicle.
  26. "Sheila Jackson Lee Catches Flack for Citing "Two Vietnams"". CBS News. 16 July 2010. Archived from the original on July 18, 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  27. "Sheila Jackson Lee says there are two Vietnams: North and South". PolitiFact.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  28. Miller, Henry I. "Politicians Worthy Of Respect Are A Rare Commodity". Forbes. Retrieved 15 August 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  29. Bill Swindell, "Texas Democrat gets praise for immigration efforts", Government Executive, 27 November 2006.
  30. Sheila Jackson Lee, "Illegal Immigration's Impact on the U.S. Economy", NPR, 26 August 2005.
  31. "Sheila Jackson Lee on the Tea Party and the Klan". The Atlantic.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  32. Phil Klein (18 January 2011). "Sheila Jackson Lee Says Repealing ObamaCare Violates Constitution". American Spectator.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  33. "Sheila Jackson Lee, D, Says Repealing Obamacare Is Unconstitutional". Fox News Channel. Retrieved May 7, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  34. Mark Hemingway (January 19, 2011). "Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas: Health care repeal violates the Fifth Amendment or something". San Francisco Examiner.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  35. Oliphant, James (11 March 2011). "Muslim 'radicalization' hearing a success, say Rep. Peter King, Republicans". LA Times.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  36. "CBO - H.R. 3202". Congressional Budget Office. Retrieved 27 July 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  37. "Bill introduced to assess TWIC card". 8 October 2013. Retrieved 29 July 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  38. Ben Jacobs (March 13, 2014). "The Constitution Is 400 Years Old and More Pearls From Sheila Jackson Lee". The Daily Beast.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  39. Brandon Keim (August 26, 2009). "What's in a Hurricane Name?". Wired (magazine).<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  40. Higham, Scott; Rich, Steven; Crites, Alice (May 13, 2015). "10 members of Congress took trip secretly funded by foreign government". The Washington Post. Washington, D.C. Retrieved 2015-05-13.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  41. Bresnahan, John (May 13, 2015). "Azerbaijani oil company secretly funded 2013 lawmaker trip". POLITICO. Retrieved 2015-05-13.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Alison Cook, Alison Cook looks back at 1997: The Year That Bit, Houston Press, May 2, 2007.

External links

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Craig Washington
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Texas's 18th congressional district

United States order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Rodney Frelinghuysen
R-New Jersey
United States Representatives by seniority
Succeeded by
Walter B. Jones
R-North Carolina