State of the Union: How Lawmakers Score a Private Moment With the President

“Aisle hogs” ready to greet the President before the address.

ByABC News
January 12, 2016, 5:39 AM

— -- It’s hard to miss Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, at the State of the Union -– especially if you’re the president.

Every year, Jackson Lee and other like-minded lawmakers –- known collectively as the “aisle hogs” -– spend hours staking out coveted aisle seats in the House chamber for the chance to greet the president before and after the State of the Union address.

“My constituents sent me to the United States Congress to be engaged, to be active, to be energized, and to represent them,” she told ABC News.

The Houston-area Democrat says her constituents appreciate her efforts, though some call the tradition a waste of time.

“It is amazing how many people look and say that they saw their member,” she said. “It’s really pushing back out to your constituents.”

For Jackson Lee, it’s not all about pleasantries: she tries to make the most of her brief encounters with the commander-in-chief.

She remembers discussing community health clinics with President George W. Bush as he made his way down the center aisle of the House chamber -– and working with the White House on the issue after their exchange.

“The opportunity to greet presidents and share with them ideas and issues that are of concern not only to my constituents in Houston, Texas, but to the 18th Congressional district … has been a bounty of opportunity,” Jackson Lee said.

Jackson Lee hopes to discuss gun control and criminal justice reform with President Obama Tuesday night when he makes his way down the House floor.

Video by ABC News' Gary Westphalen. ABC News' Hank Disselkamp contributed.