DALLAS — U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston, said she will run for re-election in the 18th congressional district regardless of how Texas Republicans in the state legislature redraw the lines of it.
“First of all, I will be running to represent the people of the 18th congressional district. Whatever the 18th congressional district looks like, I will offer myself to be a servant to those individuals to those voters, and I'll take my chances with the voters,” said Congresswoman Jackson Lee in an interview for Sunday’s Inside Texas Politics.
Texas Republicans in the state legislature drew Jackson Lee out of her own district by moving her residence into the 9th congressional district, which is represented by Rep. Al Green.
Though a member of congress is not required to live in his or her own district in Texas, Jackson Lee would not say whether she would move to a new home.
“I don't want to presuppose anything that that may occur or not occur. My plan is that the 18th Congressional District will be restored, and that's what I'll be running in,” she continued on the television program. “This map is so skewed toward destroying the 18th and eliminating my voice and I frankly believe that unfortunately, voices that are different get eliminated. I'm not going to let them do that. The people don't want that to happen.”
The GOP, which controls congressional redistricting because it has majorities in the state legislature, also carved downtown Houston, Texas Southern University and the University of Houston out of the 18th district.
“I'm only the second woman to hold this office. It is patently discriminatory and racial gerrymandering to do what has been done without any input,” Congresswoman Jackson Lee continued. “It is a historic district and in the name of [former congresswoman] Barbara Jordan, this district has to survive because it has had a history that is older than any district that has allowed an African American to be elected to go to the United States Congress.”
Congresswoman Jackson Lee said that she believes the U.S. Voting Rights Act of 1965 might offer some protection and the possibility for the existing district lines to remain.
“Well, I'm going to leave a little light at the end of the tunnel and hope that the [Texas] House fixes it. The Court of Appeals a few years ago indicated that the 18th, the 9th, and the 30th [congressional districts, which are majority Black] were protected districts. My friends think that the Voting Rights Act does not exist. It does. The U.S. Department of Justice is filing lawsuits in violation of the Voting Rights Act under Section 2.”
Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act prohibits voting practices or procedures that discriminate on the basis of race or color, among other things.
Jackson Lee told Inside Texas Politics that she might try to pursue legal action under that Section to restore her district’s existing lines.
“Ultimately, we may have to see my neighbors, my friends in court because there is no justification for the destruction of this district. We think we're protected by case law that says there should be opportunity districts where people of certain backgrounds can have a person of their choosing,” she explained.
Separately, the congresswoman was asked when she expects U.S. House Democrats to reach a consensus on the president’s priorities like Build Back Better.
“Well, first of all we are going to pass Build Back Better. I'm making that promise to the people of Texas and to the 18th Congressional District… because we gain enormously,” she said.
Jackson Lee said finally expanding Medicaid in Texas is paramount for her and would provide health insurance to a million Texans who are currently ineligible. Texas is one of a handful of states that refuses to expand Medicaid. This new federal option would bypass the state approval.
“There's a whole bucket full of opportunity for Texans, and I promise you, I'm a vice chair of the Progressive Caucus but I'm also a chief deputy whip, part of leadership. We're counting the votes. We're going to work on getting a plan that doesn't leave anyone out. We'll get to a number. We're not ready to say that, but we know we'll get to a number, and we'll vote on it. And the President will sign it in short order.
But congressional Democrats have blown through their own deadlines as they struggle to get their entire caucus to support it.
When pressed on when the House might vote, Congresswoman Jackson Lee said: “You know you put deadlines on yourself so you can get it done. October 31st. But we obviously have through the month of November. I don't even want to say that. I'm aiming toward us doing it as soon as possible. We're looking toward October 31st. We want to get it done in the month of October.”