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Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee is an influential and forceful voice in Washington. She is serving her fourteenth term as a member of the United States House of Representatives. She represents the 18th Congressional District of Texas, centered in Houston, which is the energy capital of the world. Considered by many as the “Voice of Reason”, she is dedicated to upholding the Constitutional rights of all people.
She sits on three Congressional Committees — a senior member of the House Committees on the Judiciary and Homeland Security and appointed by the leadership as a Member of the crucial Budget Committee.
In the previous Congress, she authored, introduced and saw passage of the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. Additionally, she introduced several bills including the Juvenile Accountability Block Grant Reauthorization and Bullying Prevention and Intervention Act, H.R. 71, the Federal Prison Bureau Nonviolent Offender Relief Act of 2015, and H.R. 4660, an Amendment to the Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2015 affirming the authority of the Attorney General to reduce prison overcrowding by developing and implementing lawful policies relating to requests for executive clemency from deserving petitioners.
She is the past Ranking Member of the Homeland Security Subcommittee for Maritime and Border Security wherein she co-authored HR 1417, a bipartisan bill which has been touted as the best vehicle for accomplishing comprehensive immigration reform in the U.S. House of Representatives. Congresswoman Jackson Lee is also the past Chairwoman of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Transportation Security and Infrastructure Protection which under her leadership she passed the Transportation Security Act of 2007 which increased the funding for America’s transportation security. As Chairwoman, Congresswoman Jackson Lee supported enhanced technology, better intelligence, increased airplane cargo inspections, increased security for railroads, and implementation of the 9/11 Commission report.
She was named by ‘Congressional Quarterly’ as one of the 50 most effective Members of Congress and the ‘U.S. News and World Report’ named her as one of the 10 most influential legislators in the U.S. House of Representatives. Also, the Center for Effective Lawmaking, a joint initiative between the University of Virginia and Vanderbilt University, named her the 2nd most effective Democrat in Congress during the 114th Congress, the 15th most effective Democrat in Congress during the 115th Congress, and the most effective Democrat in the Texas delegation during the 115th Congress. She is a founder, member, and co-chair of the Congressional Children’s Caucus and authored and introduced H.R. 83, the Bullying Prevention and Intervention Act of 2013. She is past chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Energy Braintrust, co-chair of the Justice Reform Task Force, and a leadership appointed member of the International Helsinki Commission. She serves as Chief Deputy Whip for the Democratic Caucus, past Chairperson of the Texas Congressional Democratic Delegation for the 113th Congress, and past Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Board.
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee earned a B.A. in Political Science from Yale University with honors in the first graduating class including females, followed by a J.D. from the University of Virginia Law School. She is married to Dr. Elwyn Lee who is also a Yale Graduate and an Administrator at the University of Houston. She has two children Jason Lee a graduate of Harvard University and Erica Lee a graduate of Duke University who is also a Member of the Harris County School Board in Houston, Texas. She is also the proud grandmother of two grandkids (twins), granddaughter Ellison Bennett Carter and grandson Roy Lee Carter, III.
Congresswoman Jackson Lee strongly believes that our children are our nation’s greatest strength and resource. She has been a tireless advocate on their behalf in Congress. She is founder and Chair of the Congressional Children’s Caucus, a large, bipartisan forum for Members of Congress to address the daunting challenges that face our children today, including child health care, substance abuse, teen pregnancy, early childhood development, juvenile crime, poverty, hunger, child abuse, neglect, adoption and foster care.
Congresswoman Jackson Lee supports youth programs that visit the Capitol in order to hear their needs first hand. Programs such as Congressional Foster Youth Shadow day that brings foster youth alumni to Capitol Hill to get a behind the scenes look of the House of Representatives and opportunities to share their story as a child in the welfare system in order to influence policy around foster care. Congresswoman Jackson Lee supports schools such as KIPP Sharp Prep of Houston that provides an environment of learning where children are encouraged to excel in school through rigorous academic and social character building programs. These youth are our future and Congresswoman Jackson Lee believes in investing in them early.
Congresswoman Jackson Lee is also concerned about children worldwide. She has introduced legislative initiatives to combat global hunger and malnutrition, both of which are extremely devastating for children. She is extremely concerned about the harsh suffering of refugee children, and has drawn particular attention to the plight of Darfur’s children.
In addition, The First Focus Campaign for Children, a national bipartisan advocacy organization, has recognized Representative Jackson Lee as a “Champion for Children”, an award that recognizes the top 100 Members of Congress working to make children and families a national priority in federal policy and budget decisions.
As a representative from Houston, the “energy capital of the world,” Congresswoman Jackson Lee has made responsible energy policy a legislative priority in Washington. In the past, Congresswoman Jackson Lee has served as Chair of the Energy Brain trust of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Congresswoman Jackson Lee believes that it is imperative that we recognize the vital importance of America achieving energy independence in the 21st century. We must end our addiction to foreign sources of oil, most of which are found in regions of the world which are unstable and in some cases, opposed to our interests. Accordingly, there is no issue more integral to our economic and national security than energy independence.
Energy is the lifeblood of every economy. Producing more of it leads to more good jobs, cheaper goods, lower fuel prices, and greater economic and national security. It is crucial that while seeking solutions to secure more energy independence within this country, we also strike a balance that will still support an environment for continued growth in the oil and gas industry, which creates millions of jobs across the country.
Congresswoman Jackson Lee has consistently called for the development of pragmatic, environmentally conscious, and economically efficient strategies for addressing and resolving our national energy crisis. We have many more miles to go before we achieve energy independence. Congresswoman Jackson Lee is willing, able, and eager to continue working with Houston’s and our nation’s energy industry to ensure that we are moving expeditiously on the path to crafting an environmentally sound and economically viable energy policy. Furthermore, she believes that it is imperative that we involve small, minority and women owned, and independent energy companies in this process, because they represent some of the hard working Americans and Houstonians who are on the forefront of energy efficient strategies to achieving energy independence.
Congresswoman Jackson Lee strongly believes in the value of multilateralism and constructive engagement with other members of the international community. Congresswoman Jackson Lee works to encourage a balanced and thoughtful approach to foreign policy, emphasizing the importance of dialogue and diplomacy as tools of the first, rather than the last, resort.
Iraq: Congresswoman Jackson Lee has long been an outspoken critic of the war in Iraq, which she and many of her Democratic colleagues have opposed from the outset. She stands by President Barack Obama’s decision to end the large roll of our troops in Iraq and warmly welcomes home those troops who have returned to their families. Congresswoman Jackson Lee also honors those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country; even though these heroes are gone they will never be forgotten. She has authored legislation honoring troops for their military accomplishments, while emphasizing the need to step up the resources and programs for those service members transitioning from military service to the Civilian sector.
Pakistan: As founder and co-chair of the Pakistan Caucus, Congresswoman Jackson Lee has emphasized the value of Pakistan as an ally in the global war on terror. In addition, she recognizes recent improvements in fields such as economic trade and investment, health care, democracy and human rights, education, and science and technology. Congresswoman Jackson Lee has encouraged continued support for Pakistan, and she believes that we can turn these increased areas of cooperation into a true partnership that promotes international peace and security, and utilizes Pakistan’s vast untapped economic potential to the benefit of both nations.
Darfur: Congresswoman Jackson Lee has been a leading voice against genocide in the western Sudanese region of Darfur. Along with her colleagues in the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), she was among the first to apply the term “genocide” to the conflict in Darfur, followed by both the House of Representatives and the Senate in July 2004. Congresswoman Jackson Lee traveled to Darfur in August 2007, where she visited internally displaced persons camps and met with government and civil society leaders as well as representatives from humanitarian organizations. Congresswoman Jackson Lee is particularly concerned about the 2.5 million people who have been displaced by this conflict. She is working to improve the overall security situation in Darfur so that they may soon be able to go home in safety. As Chair of the Congressional Children’s Caucus, Congresswoman Jackson Lee has also drawn attention to the plight of Darfur’s children, hosting a briefing on the issue and welcoming to Congress a young, resettled Darfurian refugee.
Afghanistan: Congresswoman Jackson Lee believes that Afghanistan is the first front in the war on global terrorism, and she is concerned about the ongoing instability in Afghanistan. She co-chairs the U.S.-Afghanistan caucus, and she has visited the country, where she was particularly moved by the conditions faced by women and children. Congresswoman Jackson Lee recently successfully amended the Afghanistan Freedom and Security Support Act of 2007, which passed the House, to encourage funding for efforts to protect Afghanistan’s female legislators. Congresswoman Jackson Lee supports the ongoing UN presence in the region after the mass draw down of U.S. troops after the 13 year engagement. She stands firm in supporting actions that strengthen the Afghanistan government and the continued fight for a stable region.
Nigeria: Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee has led a Congressional Delegation to Nigeria where she spoke to those affected by the terrorist group, Boko Haram. Congresswoman Jackson Lee, along with her colleagues on the Committee of Homeland Security, have proposed a relief fund that would offer support for those who have been personally affected by the actions of the extremist group Boko Haram, including the families of the 200 kidnapped schoolgirls from Chibok. Congresswoman Jackson Lee is also calling for the creation of an elite police force that is capable of preventing and combating violence within Nigerian villages. Congresswoman Jackson Lee continues to support panels and briefings that bring Nigerian leaders together with our current legislative expert in order to strengthen the advancement of a strong democratic government in Nigeria.
Congresswoman Jackson Lee regards health care as one of the most pressing issues facing this country and the world. She has been a staunch supporter of legislation that aims to eliminate health disparities in this country, fight the HIV/AIDS pandemic, combat the childhood obesity crisis facing this nation, and provide health insurance coverage for all Americans. She believes that quality healthcare should be affordable and accessible to all. Since the Affordable Care Act was rolled out by the president uninsured citizens numbers have dropped from 18 million to 11.9 million people, a 66% decrease in uninsured citizens.
Congresswoman Jackson Lee fully understands the urgent need to provide a high-quality, accessible, and affordable health care system for all and is working hard to tackle the problem of the uninsured and the under-insured. There are currently forty-seven million uninsured Americans, nine million of whom are children. Another fifty million are underinsured. Of utmost concern to Congresswoman Jackson Lee, is ensuring that every child in this country have access to adequate health insurance.
Congresswoman Jackson Lee is committed to the protection of our homeland. As a senior Member of the Committee on Homeland Security, Congresswoman Jackson Lee has worked hard to oversee and improve the Department of Homeland Security and to make America safe from terrorism. She has supported legislation to improve the ability of the Immigration and Naturalization Services to keep out dangerous individuals, while continuing to facilitate access for those individuals desiring legalization.
Congresswoman Jackson Lee ia a member of the Subcommittee on Transportation Security and a Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security, which covers immigration and port security policies. Congresswoman Jackson Lee has been a leader, setting policy for the security of America’s airports, chemical plants, refineries, hospitals and other critical infrastructures. She is also the author of H.R. 4990, “Justice for Children Act,” legislation increasing the number of immigration judges.
Congress is focusing on finding security gaps, and is holding the Administration accountable, demanding serious solutions. Congresswoman Jackson Lee is working hard to ensure that Americans get the security that they have been promised and that they deserve. Twenty years have passed since the catastrophic events of 9/11, and Congresswoman Jackson Lee and her colleagues are committed to honoring the over 3,000 innocent Americans who died that day by ensuring that such a tragedy is never allowed to occur again.
Congresswoman Jackson Lee is one of the most outspoken proponents of comprehensive immigration reform in the Congress. She strongly believes that only a comprehensive approach to solving the current immigration crisis in the U.S. will produce results. While a strong supporter of securing our borders, she considers essential the need for bringing close to 12 million illegal immigrants out of the shadows of society through earned access to legalization. She also believes that unity of families is an essential American value and should be one of the fundamentals of immigration reform, along with increasing the diversity of immigration from parts of the world that have been historically underrepresented such as the Caribbean, Africa or treated unequally such as Haiti.
Congresswoman Jackson Lee has a long record of intervention to advance humanitarian causes in the immigration context, from preventing the breakup of individual families as a result of a wrongful deportation, to ensuring that victims of civil wars and national disasters around the globe receive a temporary protected status under the U.S. immigration Laws. She has authored several bills about immigration including the H.R. 750, the “Save America Comprehensive Immigration Act”, which sets forth a comprehensive and humane solution to immigration reform. Congresswoman Jackson Lee has also consistently advocated better protection for American workers and employers within the immigration context.
Space and NASA
Congresswoman Jackson Lee believes that space exploration remains part of our national destiny, and she is working in Congress to ensure that the future of NASA is one of continued progress. She has steadfastly emphasized that while safety must be the number one priority of NASA, this should not deter us from pushing the boundaries of technology and discovery. With both the Space Shuttle Atlantis and the International Space Station experiencing serious safety scares, Congresswoman Jackson Lee continues to work for improved safety standards and oversight.
Congresswoman Jackson Lee feels that the space exploration and research done at NASA will inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers, and will provide the technological advances needed to keep America’s economy strong.
Members of the armed forces are important to our nation, and we show them our appreciation by taking care of them after they have completed their service. As a Member of Congress, Sheila Jackson Lee has fought to ensure that veterans have the access to the quality healthcare that they deserve.
Our nation has a proud legacy of appreciation and commitment to the men and women who have worn the uniform in defense of this country. We must be united in seeing that every soldier, sailor, airman, and marine is welcomed back with all the care and compassion this grateful nation can bestow. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee believes in helping our veterans even after their honorable service. This is why she has sponsored H.R. 76 Helping to Encourage Real Opportunity for Veterans Transitioning from Battlespace to Workplace Act.
When the Second World War finally came to an end in 1945, celebrations erupted on the streets of cities and towns across our nation. One of the most enduring images of that war is not a picture of bombs or destruction, but of a jubilant soldier kissing a woman in New York City’s Times Square. The veterans we continue to honor as the “Greatest Generation” returned home not only to open arms, but also to the G.I. Bill, which offered them college or vocational education, as well as one year of unemployment compensation. It also provided loans for returning veterans to buy homes and start businesses.
Unfortunately, our nation’s recognition of those who served in subsequent conflicts has been less than adequate. We have, in recent decades, too often failed to overcome our political differences to recognize the truly remarkable achievements of our courageous veterans. Though Congresswoman Jackson Lee opposed the war in Iraq from its inception, she remains absolutely committed to ensuring our sons and daughters returning from different international conflicts will receive the recognition they deserve and the services and support that they need.
Congresswoman Jackson Lee recently introduced groundbreaking legislation entitled “Helping to Encourage Real Opportunity for Veterans Transitioning from Battlespace to Workplace Act of 2015 (HEROS).” Her legislation recognizes the need to honor our service beyond their tenure in uniform. Our veterans should not have to struggle to find gainful employment after fighting so gallantly to protect our freedoms. The Heroes Act calls for the appointment of a “military relations manager” as an expert in the process of transitioning from being a member of the Armed Forces to being a civilian and in translating the skills, experience, and training gained in the Armed Forces to skills, experience, and training needed in the private sector. This act allows employers a business-related tax credit for the number of veterans who begin work resulting from the efforts of a military relations manager.
Veterans continue to have many unanswered needs, and Congresswoman Jackson Lee continues to fight for the rights of our most patriotic Americans. Veterans have kept their promise to serve our nation; they have willingly risked their lives to protect the country we all love. We must now ensure that we keep our promises to our veterans.
Voting and Civil Rights
As a senior member of the Homeland Security and Judiciary Committees, Congresswoman Jackson Lee fully understands that we live in a dangerous world. However, she is also proud of, and deeply committed to, the democratic values that have made the United States a beacon for the world. She believes that adherence to these democratic values must be the pillar by which America gives no quarter to terrorists who would do our country harm while at the same time ensuring fidelity to the distinctively American commitment to the rule of law, the dignity of the individual, and separation of powers.
Congresswoman Jackson Lee believes that it should be the policy of the United States that the objective of any authorized program of foreign intelligence surveillance must be to ensure that American citizens and persons in America are secure in their persons, papers, and effects but makes terrorists everywhere else in the world feel insecure. The best way to achieve these twin goals is follow the rule of law. And the exclusive law to follow with respect to authorizing foreign surveillance gathering on U.S. soil is the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which can and should be modernized to accommodate new technologies and to make clear that foreign to foreign communications are not subject to the FISA, even though modern technology enables that communication to be routed through the United States.
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court is indispensable and must play a meaningful role in ensuring compliance with the law and the Congress must have regular access to information about how many U.S. communications are being collected and the authority to require court orders when it becomes clear that a certain program or surveillance of a target is scooping up communications of Americans.
Congress should not grant amnesty to any telecommunications company for helping the NSA spy illegally on innocent Americans because the availability of amnesty will have the unintended consequence of encouraging telecommunications companies to comply with, rather than contest, illegal requests to spy on Americans. Finally, authorization to conduct foreign surveillance gathering on U.S. soil must never be made permanent. The threats to America’s security and the liberties of its people will change over time and requires constant vigilance by the people’s representatives in Congress. Congresswoman Jackson Lee supports the USA Freedom Act passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama. With this new legislation there will be fewer opportunities for the collection of unauthorized personal information data collection by oversight agencies.
Federal Hate Crimes Legislation:
Hate crimes are destructive and divisive. A random act of violence resulting in injury or even death is a tragic event that devastates the lives of the victim and their family, but the intentional selection and beating or murder of an individual because of who they are terrorizes an entire community and sometimes the nation. For example, it is easy to recognize the difference between check-kiting and a cross burning; or an arson of an office building versus the intentional torching of a church or synagogue. The church or synagogue burning has a profound impact on the congregation, the faith community, the greater community, and the nation.
Voting Rights for District of Columbia Citizens:
Congresswoman Jackson Lee believes that we must not lose sight of one indisputable and shameful fact: nearly 500,000 people living in the District of Columbia lack direct voting representation in the House of Representatives and Senate. Residents of the District of Columbia serve in the military, pay billions of dollars in federal taxes each year, and assume other responsibilities of U.S. citizenship. For over 200 years, the District has been denied voting representation in Congress–the entity that has ultimate authority over all aspects of the city’s legislative, executive, and judicial functions.
If a person can be called upon to pay federal taxes and serve in the armed forces of the United States, then he or she should at least have the opportunity to vote for a representative who could at least cast a symbolic vote in this chamber on critical matters facing our nation. Issues like war and peace, equality and justice.
Congresswoman Jackson Lee believes that taxation without representation is tyranny. As a supporter of freedom, democracy, and equality, she continues to argue that it is long overdue for the citizens of the District of Columbia to have a representative in Congress who can vote on the vital legislation considered in this body.
Voting Rights for the Nation:
Recently Congresswoman Jackson Lee had the honor to present the Barbara Jordan Gold Medallion for Public-Private Leadership to a pioneer in her own right Hillary Rodham Clinton. This prestigious award is presented annually to a woman of demonstrated excellence in the public or private sector whose achievements are an example and inspiration to people everywhere, but especially to women and girls.
A terrible blow was dealt to the Voting Rights Act on June 25, 2013, when the Supreme Court handed down the decision in Shelby County v. Holder, 537 U.S. 193 (2013), which invalidated Section 4(b), the provision of the law determining which jurisdictions would be subject to Section 5 “pre-clearance.” The reason the Court gave for its ruling “times have changed.” Times have changed, but what the Court did not fully appreciate is that the positive changes it cited were due almost entirely to the existence and vigorous enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. And that is why the Voting Rights Act is still needed today.