House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) reiterated her support for Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) ahead of a runoff election later this month, despite pressure from pro-choice advocates who point out that Cuellar is the only Democrat in the House who opposes abortion.
Cuellar “is a valued member of our caucus,” Pelosi insisted at a press conference Thursday in response to a question not about abortion, but rather how the centrist Democrat’s home was raided in January by the FBI as part of a probe relating to organizations involved with Azerbaijan. Cuellar himself is not under investigation.
“It’s up to his constituents to make the decision to send him to Congress,” Pelosi said. Then, herself raising the issue of abortion — specifically the House vote on legislation codifying Roe v. Wade — Pelosi added: “He is not pro-choice, but we didn’t need him. We passed the bill with what we had.”
The bill, which Cuellar was the sole Democrat to oppose, failed in the Senate on Wednesday, with every single Republican and West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin voting against it.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi re-affirms support for Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX), the last anti-abortion Democrat in the House, ahead of his May 24th runoff:
"It's up to his constituents to make the decision … He is not pro-choice, but we didn’t need him [to pass a bill codifying Roe]." pic.twitter.com/tCitiBSsVt
— The Recount (@therecount) May 12, 2022
Cuellar finds himself in a runoff on May 24 after pro-choice progressive Jessica Cisneros finished a close second after the first round of primary voting in early March. A 28-year-old immigration attorney backed by the likes of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Cisneros told Rolling Stone after that race, “I don’t support progressive policy because it’s progressive. I actually support it because I think it’s the best way that we can speak to the challenges that people face in this district.”
Months later, there is even more of a spotlight on the upcoming runoff in light of how the Supreme Court is poised to strip away abortion rights. Two days after that news broke, the Democratic establishment came to Cuellar’s aid. Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) delivered a stump speech alongside the nine-term congressman while in Texas last Wednesday, and although he didn’t explicitly address the elephant in the room, Clyburn said, “When people tell you you need to agree on everything, I do not agree with Henry Cuellar on everything.” He added: “We need to sit down with people who we do not agree with and try to find common ground, to do what is necessary to move this country forward.”
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer made similar comments, telling Business Insider on Wednesday, “Our platform says that we’re a pro-choice party, and we are a pro-choice party. That does not mean that there’s not room in our party for alternative voices.”