Shiela Jackson Lee speaking in Houston in April.
Shiela Jackson Lee speaking in Houston in April.
Hope Bauman

Sheila Jackson Lee, Seeing a Chance to Grandstand, Introduces Anti-Trump Bill

Well, that was quick.

On Wednesday, Rep. Al Green, a Houston Democrat, became the first congressman to formally call for the impeachment of President Donald Trump.

So, of course, later on that day, followed by Green's speech and the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate whether Trump's campaign had any ties to Russia, the unstoppable Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, also a Houston Democrat, swept in to do what she does best: grandstanding.

In other words, she filed a no-chance-of-passing bill and announced it on Facebook, in a blatant move to try and jump on the anti-Trump bandwagon after Green had tested the waters.

This is nothing new for the longtime congresswoman. For years, she's been taking advantage of situations to get herself some success by association and camera time. It happens with such regularity and consummate skill observers would almost think a bossy stage mother is standing by 24-7 to shove Lee into the spotlight whenever the slightest opportunity appears.

She has an instinct for cribbing herself into narratives in a way that is so shameless it's almost charming. Whether that has meant planting herself squarely in front of Hillary Clinton during a Houston stopover a few years back that photographers could only get a picture of the back of Lee's head blocking out Clinton's face, or making a lengthy speech at Michael Jackson's funeral, Lee will do whatever it takes to make sure she's a part of the story.

And she does it in a way that ensures it generally works to her benefit. She's always ready to get on a bandwagon and support a cause that seems like it could score her some political points by association, but Lee is reliable in that she almost never leads the charge. Instead, she comes galloping along after somebody else has made sure the way is clear.

Over the years, this has meant she's joined up with those fasting for a fair budget deal. It has translated to both being a part of the Democratic move to impeach President George W. Bush and then later claiming, with a straight face, that Democrats never tried to impeach him. (Lee was a co-sponsor of the bill filed to impeach Bush, as Buzzfeed pointed out.)

Lee has also known the power of being seen with a popular president. Like Green, during President Barack Obama's time in office, Lee was always parked in a good, solid aisle seat the afternoon of the State of the Union, ready to shake Obama's hand and smile in some suit of a vibrant color so that nobody watching at home would miss her.

So it's no surprise that Lee has yet to miss a beat when it comes to Trump. In January, Lee was one of a handful of Democratic Congress members who made a last-ditch move to keep Trump from becoming the certified 45th president by trying to keep the Electoral College votes from being certified, in what was, we noted at the time, a remarkably meaningless bit of political theater.

Then, as Inauguration Day loomed, Lee decided not to attend the ceremony. Now, she wasn't the first Texas representative to opt to boycott Trump's inauguration — that would be Green, again — but she was definitely at least the second or third one to announce she wasn't going.

So now, she's once again boldly doing something kind of like what Green did, just a little bit after he already did it.

Green stood on the floor of the House of Representatives and called for Trump's impeachment. And then Lee introduced the Trump Special Counsel Act, proposed legislation that would require that special counsel is automatically established whenever the president, the vice president, their spouses or their children are subject to a criminal investigation. A special counsel would also be triggered whenever any entities owned by the president or vice president are the focus of a criminal probe.

"The onslaught of scandals surrounding the Trump presidency have led our democracy to a crossing point," Jackson Lee wrote in a statement on Facebook. "Will we uphold the rule of law or allow for the continued obstruction of justice by a chief executive who brazenly abuses his power?"

She didn't stop there. "Americans need to know the truth about Russia's interference in our election and the collusion of Russian agents and Trump campaign officials," she added. "But following the president's abrupt dismissal of FBI Director James Comey and revelations Trump pressured Comey to drop the Flynn investigation, it is abundantly clear that an outside independent prosecutor is required to find the facts."

So how will this proposed legislation — which doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell of getting through the Republican-held Congress —  help people get to the bottom of all this Russia business?

Well, it won't. It's essentially yet another meaningless gesture, Lee's specialty, that plays well while accomplishing nothing. But it sure does sound good, doesn't it?

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