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Pelosi defends backing anti-abortion Rep. Henry Cuellar, saying he's a 'valued member of our caucus' and they 'didn't need him' to codify Roe

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas.Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call/Getty Images and AP Photo/Eric Gay
  • Pelosi is standing by her support for Henry Cuellar despite an FBI investigation and his stance against abortion.

  • She said he's a "valued member of our caucus" and that his vote isn't needed to protect abortion rights.

  • Cuellar faces a stiff primary challenge from Jessica Cisneros, a progressive abortion rights supporter.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi defended her support on Thursday for Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas — an anti-abortion Democrat who faces a stiff primary challenge from progressive immigration lawyer Jessica Cisneros — even as the Supreme Court appears likely to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Pelosi was asked at her weekly press conference about Cuellar's potential ethics issues; both his home and campaign office were raided by the FBI in January, reportedly in connection with a federal investigation that may bear on his ties to the post-Soviet state of Azerbaijan.

"I'm supporting Henry Cuellar, he's a valued member of our caucus," she said at her weekly press conference. "The FBI has said he is not under investigation."

While Cuellar's lawyer recently said that the congressman is not the target of the investigation, Cuellar declined to say why he'd been the subject of a raid when asked on Fox News Sunday in April, simply offering that he has "deep respect for law enforcement."

But Cuellar's also come under increasing scrutiny for his anti-abortion stance, particularly in the wake of the draft opinion. He was the only House Democrat to vote against the Women's Health Protection Act — which would codify abortion rights into federal law — when the House first passed the bill in September.

"I thought you were going to take it to choice or something," Pelosi remarked. "He is not pro-choice, but we didn't need him; we passed the bill with what we had."

Pelosi's comments on Cuellar came just minutes after she lambasted Republicans at that same press conference for their stance against abortion rights, saying they had "showed their intention to punish and control women."

But Cisneros, who's challenging him in a May 24 runoff for the Democratic nomination in Texas's 28th congressional district, has called on top Democrats to drop their support of Cuellar, arguing that he "could very much be the deciding vote on the future of our reproductive rights and we cannot afford to take that risk."

But while Cisneros has drawn the support of like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and trailed the 9-term congressman by just over 1,000 votes in the initial March primary election, Cuellar enjoys the support of top House Democrats despite holding conservative positions on issues like gun rights, immigration, and marijuana legalization.

House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn campaigned with Cuellar in San Antonio last week, just two days after the leak of the draft opinion. He told reporters at a campaign event that Democrats are a "big-tent party" and said that he doesn't "believe we ought to have a litmus test" for abortion rights.

And on Wednesday, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer re-iterated his support for Cuellar when asked by Insider.

"Well, we're a diverse party. We have diverse opinions," said Hoyer. "Our platform says that we're pro-choice party, and we are pro-choice party. That does not mean that there's not room in our party for alternative voices."

And House Democratic Caucus Chair Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York dodged the question of supporting Cuellar entirely, pointing instead to his own personal "100% record when it comes to supporting reproductive freedom."

For his part, Cuellar has condemned the contents of the leaked draft opinion, arguing it will "further divide the country," even as he's re-affirmed his anti-abortion rights stance.

Read the original article on Business Insider