After flipping a congressional seat that once belonged to a lengthy lineage of Republican incumbents, Rep. Lizzie Fletcher has kept busy in Washington representing her Houston constituents.
One of two Texas Democrats to flip congressional districts in 2018, Fletcher joined the cohort of 41 newly elected House Democrats that quickly put their majority to good use.
In their first year, Houston Democrats passed more than 400 bills and balanced an intensive impeachment investigation now being fought in the Senate.
Fletcher joined in on many of those votes, like voting for the United States-Mexico-Canada trade agreement, raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour, and allowing the federal government to negotiate lower drug prices. Fletcher herself sponsored 13 bills and amendments, including an original bill to hasten recovery efforts in areas around the U.S., like Houston, that struggle from perennial catastrophic flooding.
Her efforts led to the HELP Act, a bill to streamline the ability for state and local governments to begin recovery projects while waiting for federal dollars through a critical FEMA grant program. “What I heard here from folks in Houston who were working on Harvey recovery was that delays in that program meant real on-the-ground delays for folks here,” Fletcher told the Signal. “There was just a lot of administrative red tape.”
To get the bill to the House floor, Fletcher worked across the aisle to gain support from Republicans whose districts had been experiencing similar problems, such as Houston area Rep. Pete Olson of Sugar Land– one of several Republicans to join onto the bi-partisan coalition to co-sponsor the bill. Weeks before the end of the year, Fletcher’s bill passed overwhelmingly in a 409-7 vote.
Fletcher’s other legislative work includes nuts-and-bolts issues related to her committee assignments; Transportation and Infrastructure; Science, Space, and Technology; and chairing the Subcommittee on Energy.
Going into 2020, Fletcher said she plans to continue her work on the HELP Act to get it through the Senate and passed into law. She also plans to flex her leadership on the energy subcommittee, where a bill to expand energy and carbon capture research is already pending. On transportation, Fletcher said she will be working closely with a sweeping infrastructure bill that will be a top priority for Democrats in 2020, and in the Spring, looking to advance a project to widen the Port of Houston.
While in session, Fletcher said she typically splits her time fairly evenly between the nation’s capital and home; four days in Washington and three in Houston. Her frequent trips back home have allowed her to attend community events and town halls for discussion on flooding, healthcare, hurricane preparedness, and carbon capture technology.
“We’re really trying to bring Washington here, and bring Houston to Washington to talk about the issues that people care about and want to see us working together making progress on a federal level,” Fletcher said of her discussions with residents.
In 2018, Fletcher ousted former Republican Rep. John Culberson by 5 percentage points, a comfortable margin, but one that won’t allow for complacency come campaign season. She is up for re-election this November.
The Cook Political Report has listed the district as leaning Democratic, a political shift that continues to surprise considering the lengthy Republican history in Texas’ 7th Congressional district, which began in 1967 with the election of then-representative George H.W. Bush.
Fletcher’s first year representing the swing district has been a good example of how Democrats around the state who are making inroads into long-held Republican territory can govern with unity in mind and without alienating Republican voters. Mark Jones, a political science professor at Rice University, called Fletcher the “antithesis of AOC,” referring to the leftist firebrand, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Nowhere was that demonstrated better than Fletcher’s approach to impeachment, which was both deliberate and non-committal until the facts were assembled in the articles of impeachment. “When I looked at the evidence that had been collected in the House investigation and the articles of impeachment, to me the answer was clear, that the president had violated his oath of office and the trust that we the people put in the office of the president,” Fletcher said.
“I do understand that not all of my constituents feel that away, and not everyone across the country feels that way, and I respect that it is a challenging and complex decision,” Fletcher continued. “But I looked at the evidence and I used my background as a lawyer, as well as the information in front of me to make a decision. And I think it was the right decision for our community, for our country, and for our Constitution.”
Photo: Lizzie Fletcher’s Congressional Website
Fernando covers Texas politics and government at the Texas Signal. Before joining the Signal, Fernando spent two years at the Houston Chronicle and previously interned at Houston’s NPR station News 88.7. He is a graduate of the University of Houston, Jack J. Valenti School of Communication, and enjoys reading, highlighting things, and arguing on social media. You can follow him on Twitter at @fernramirez93 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org