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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Henry Cuellar
Official portrait, 2017
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Texas's 28th district
Assumed office
January 3, 2005
Preceded byCiro Rodriguez
102nd Secretary of State of Texas
In office
January 2, 2001 – October 5, 2001
GovernorRick Perry
Preceded byElton Bomer
Succeeded byGeoff Connor (acting)
Member of the Texas House of Representatives
In office
January 13, 1987 – January 2, 2001
Preceded byW. N. Hall
Succeeded byRichard Raymond
Constituency43rd district (1987–1993)
42nd district (1993–2001)
Personal details
Born
Enrique Roberto Cuellar

(1955-09-19) September 19, 1955 (age 68)
Laredo, Texas, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
SpouseImelda Cuellar
Children2
EducationLaredo Community College (AA)
Georgetown University (BSFS)
University of Texas at Austin (JD, PhD)
Texas A&M International University (MA)
Naval War College
WebsiteHouse website

Enrique Roberto "Henry" Cuellar[1] (/ˈkw.ɑːr/ KWAY-ar; born September 19, 1955)[2] is an American attorney and politician serving as the U.S. representative for Texas's 28th congressional district since 2005. He is a member of the Democratic Party. His district extends from the Rio Grande to San Antonio's suburbs.

Cuellar served in the Texas House of Representatives for 14 years, from 1987 to 2001, and briefly served as the Texas Secretary of State in 2001, making him, as of 2024, the most recent Democrat to have held a statewide office in Texas.

Cuellar was first elected to Congress in 2004, after defeating incumbent Ciro Rodriguez in a primary challenge. He is considered a leading centrist within the House Democratic Caucus.[3][4] He has since been comfortably reelected in every general election while surviving a number of competitive primary races, most notably in 2020 and 2022.[5]

In early May 2024, Cuellar was indicted on money laundering, bribery, and conspiracy charges by a federal grand jury in Houston, Texas. He is alleged to have accepted nearly $600,000 from Azerbaijan and a Mexican commercial bank in order to influence U.S. policy.

Early life and education

Cuellar was born in Laredo, Texas.[citation needed] Both of his parents were Mexican American.

His father, Martin Siller Cuellar Sr. (1926–2019), was born in Tamaulipas, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States.[6][7] His mother, former Odilia Perez (1928–2015), was a native of Zapata, Texas.[8]

Cuellar graduated in 1973 from J. W. Nixon High School.[citation needed] He received an associate of arts degree from Laredo Community College, then known as Laredo Junior College.[citation needed]

He then attended the Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University and graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in foreign service. He also earned a Master of Arts in international trade from Texas A&M International University, a Juris Doctor (JD) from the University of Texas School of Law, and a PhD from the University of Texas at Austin.[9]

As of 2023, he was finishing a master's in defense and strategic studies from Naval War College.[10][11]

Early career

In 1981, Cuellar opened his own law firm in Laredo and became a licensed customs broker in 1983.[citation needed] From 1984 to 1986 he taught at Texas A&M International University as an adjunct professor of international commercial law.[citation needed]

Texas House of Representatives

Cuellar was a member of the Texas House of Representatives from 1987 to 2001, representing most of Laredo. During his time as a state representative, he served on the House Appropriations, Higher Education, and Calendar committees. He also served on several national legislative committees dealing with state budgets, the U.S.–Mexico border, and international trade.[12]

Texas Secretary of State

In 2001, Governor Rick Perry appointed Cuellar to be Secretary of State of Texas. He served in the office for just over nine months until his resignation, after which Geoff Connor held the position in an acting capacity.[13] As of 2023, Cuellar is the last Democrat to have served in the role.

During his short time as Texas Secretary of State, Cuellar issued an opinion that, while not legally binding, argued that home-rule cities in the state of Texas could not adopt ranked-choice voting for their elections under the Texas Constitution. That opinion has been the primary basis for the city of Austin, ignoring the passage of the city's 2021 Proposition E, which would have adopted ranked-choice voting in Austin.[14][15]

U.S. House of Representatives

Elections

2002

In 2002, Cuellar was the Democratic nominee for the House of Representatives in Texas's 23rd congressional district. He lost to five-term incumbent Republican Henry Bonilla 52%–47% in the closest race Bonilla had faced up to that point.[citation needed]

2004

Cuellar spent much of early 2003 preparing for a rematch against Bonilla. However, redistricting shifted most of Laredo, which had been the heart of the 23rd since its creation in 1966, into the 28th district, represented by Ciro Rodriguez. Cuellar challenged Rodriguez, a former friend, for the nomination winning by 58 votes.[16]

The Washington Post described the campaign as "nasty". The initial count gave Rodriguez a 145-vote lead, but after a recount Cuellar led by 58 votes.[17] Cuellar's victory was one of only two primary upsets of incumbents from either party in the entire country.

The 28th district was far more Democratic than the 23rd making him heavily favored in the general election. In November, he defeated the Republican by a 20-point margin, becoming the first Laredoan in over 20 years elected to represent the 28th district.[citation needed]

Cuellar's election to the House in 2004 was a standout for Democrats in a year in which Republicans otherwise gained seats in Texas's House delegation.[citation needed]

2006

On March 7, 2006, Cuellar again defeated Rodriguez in the Democratic primary with 52% of the vote in a three-way race. No Republican filed.

On June 29, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Texas Legislature had violated Latino voters' rights when it shifted most of Laredo out of the 23rd and replaced it with heavily Republican San Antonio suburbs.[18] As a result, nearly every congressional district from El Paso to San Antonio had to be redrawn, and the primary results for these districts were invalidated. A court drew a new map in which all of Laredo was moved into the 28th district while the south San Antonio area was moved to the 23rd. An election open to all candidates with a runoff if no candidate won 50% was scheduled for the date of the general election, November 7, 2006.

In the general election on November 7, 2006, Cuellar had no Republican opposition. He handily defeated Ron Avery of McQueeney, the chairman of the conservative Constitution Party in Guadalupe County, and Democrat Frank Enriquez, a McAllen trial attorney, with nearly 68% of the vote.

2008

Cuellar was unopposed in the Democratic primary on March 4, 2008. In the general election, he outran President Barack Obama, winning nearly 70% of the vote to win reelection while the president won 56% in the district.[19]

2010

Cuellar was unopposed for the Democratic nomination in 2010 and won reelection in the general election.[20]

2012

Cuellar was opposed in the November 6 general election by Republican and Libertarian Party candidates.[21]

Guadalupe County, a Republican stronghold that usually opposed Cuellar for reelection, was removed from the reconfigured 28th district.[22]

Cuellar defeated the Republican, 112,262 votes (68%) to 49,095 votes (30%). Hisel took 2% of the vote, and a Green Party candidate received the remaining 1%.[23][24]

2014

Cuellar was unopposed in the Democratic primary and faced no Republican opposition in 2014.[9]

2016

Cuellar won a rematch in the March 1, 2016, Democratic primary with former Republican congressional candidate William R. Hayward, who switched parties to run again for the House. Cuellar received 49,962 votes (89.8%) to Hayward's 5,682 (10.2%).[25] Cuellar then defeated Republican Zeffen Patrick Hardin in the November 8 general election, 122,086 (66.2%) to 57,740 (31.3%). Green Party nominee Michael D. Cary received 4,616 votes (2.5%).[26]

2018

In 2018, Cuellar was unopposed in the Democratic primary. He won 84.4% (117,178 votes) in the general election.[27]

2020

On January 11, 2019, the progressive organization Justice Democrats, which supported U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's successful 2018 primary campaign in New York City, announced that it was seeking a primary challenger against Cuellar in the Democratic primary scheduled for March 4, 2020.[28] On July 13, 2019, the Justice Democrats organization announced its support for Jessica Cisneros, a 26-year-old immigration and human rights attorney from Laredo who had announced a primary campaign against Cuellar.[29] Cuellar defeated Cisneros 51.8% to 48.2% in the primary.[30] He won the general election in November with 58.3% of the vote, defeating Republican nominee Sandra Whitten and Libertarian nominee Bekah Congdon.[31]

2022

Cuellar finished first with a plurality in the Democratic primary, tallying 23,552 votes, 48.4%, over Cisneros, who received 22,745 votes, 46.9%. Cuellar and Cisneros qualified for the May runoff while a third candidate, Tannya Benavides, was eliminated after getting 2,289 votes (4.7%).[32]

During the runoff, Cuellar faced renewed scrutiny over an incident in 2018 where he fired a pregnant staffer who had requested parental leave and subsequently suffered a miscarriage, and according to court documents, subsequently urged other staffers to help him discredit her.[33][34][35]

On June 7, trailing by 281 votes in the runoff, Cisneros requested a recount to be conducted by the Texas Democratic Party.[5] Cuellar extended his lead to a 289-vote margin during the recount.[5] The Associated Press called the race on June 21, 2022.[36] Cuellar went on to easily win reelection against the Republican nominee.

2024

Cuellar, who has yet to draw any challenges for the 2024 election, has touted support from key party leaders; the endorsements were seen as a move to head off a primary challenge against him.[37][38]

Leaders endorsing him for 2024 included Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries, Whip Katherine Clark, and Democratic Caucus Chair Pete Aguilar.[39] Former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, former Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Assistant Democratic Leader Jim Clyburn also endorsed Cuellar.[39]

Committee assignments

Caucus memberships

Political positions

Cuellar has described himself as a "moderate-centrist" or conservative Democrat.[9] During the 117th Congress, he voted with the Democratic caucus 96.8% of the time.[48]

During the Trump administration, Cuellar voted with the Democratic majority 87.9% of the time, while voting with Trump's stance 40.6% of the time.[49][50][51] Cuellar was ranked the 6th-most bipartisan member of the House of Representatives in the first session of the 117th United States Congress by the Lugar Center and McCourt School of Public Policy.[52][53] He is one of two members belonging to the fiscally-conservative Blue Dog Democratic Coalition in the Texas congressional delegation.[41][dead link]

As of August 2023, Cuellar had voted in line with Joe Biden's stated position 96% of the time.[a][54]

Cuellar voted to provide Israel with support following the 2023 Hamas attack on Israel.[55][56]

Immigration

Cuellar meets with acting U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Mark A. Morgan

In 2011, Cuellar authored and co-sponsored legislation seeking to honor slain ICE agent Jaime Zapata. Billed as a border security bill, it would increase cooperation among state, local, and federal law enforcement agencies during investigations of human and drug smuggling from Mexico.[57]

In 2013, in a statement with House colleagues Beto O'Rourke and Filemon Vela Jr., Cuellar renewed his opposition to a border fence along the Rio Grande between the U.S. and Mexico. He denounced inclusion in the Senate immigration bill of an amendment sponsored by Senators Bob Corker and John Hoeven that called for 700 additional miles of border fencing, calling the fence an antiquated solution to a modern problem. The fence, he said, ignores the economic ties between the two nations, which reached $500 billion in 2012.[58]

Cuellar was one of three Democrats to vote for Kate's Law, which expands maximum sentences for immigrants who reenter the U.S. after being deported.[3] He supported legislation to strip federal funding for jurisdictions that have sanctuary policies in place.[3]

2008 primary

On June 15, 2007, Cuellar endorsed then U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton for president in 2008. He said, "Senator Clinton is the only candidate with the experience and toughness to hit the ground running on her first day in the White House."[citation needed] In 2007, he held a fundraiser for Clinton in Laredo that raised over $200,000 and was attended by former President Bill Clinton.[citation needed]

Abortion

Cuellar opposes abortion.[3] He expressed concerns that the Senate health care bill[clarification needed] allowed federal funding for abortion. He has voted for a ban on abortion after 20 weeks.[59]

In 2021, he was the only Democrat to vote against the Women's Health Protection Act, which aims to preserve access to abortion nationwide. The Act was proposed in response to the Texas Heartbeat Act which bans abortion after 6 weeks in Texas.[60]

Appropriations

Cuellar is the only Texas Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee and is prolific in using his perch to deliver federal funds to his district.[61] In 2011, he delivered federal funding to open a Veterans Administration outpatient clinic operated jointly with UT Health San Antonio in Laredo, Texas. At the time, the mayor declared that the project "would not have been possible" without the Congressman's support.[62]

In 2020, Cuellar secured $1.2 million in federal funding to support efforts to fight COVID-19 in Webb County.[63]

Affordable Care Act

He supported the Affordable Health Care for America Act, which narrowly passed the House.[citation needed]

On March 21, 2010, Cuellar voted for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which passed the House by a vote of 219–212.[64]

Bipartisan infrastructure deal

Cuellar was instrumental in shepherding through passage of the bipartisan infrastructure deal in 2021. He was one of nine moderate Democrats who threatened to boycott a procedural vote unless House leadership first allowed a vote on President Biden's Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.[65][66] The effort was successful and resulted in the successful passage of the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill.[67]

Earmarks

Cuellar supported the return of earmarks to Congress and has used his position on Appropriations to become one of the 20 top earmarkers in Congress.[68][69]

Environmental issues

On June 26, 2009, Cuellar voted with the House majority to pass the American Clean Energy and Security Act, also known as the cap and trade bill.[70] In March of 2023, Cuellar announced that he would vote to roll back environmental regulations in President Biden's Inflation Reduction Act, making him one of only two Democrats to do so.[citation needed]

Marijuana

In 2020, Cuellar was one of six House Democrats to vote against the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, which aimed to legalize cannabis at the federal level.[71] In 2014, he voted for a Republican measure blocking the implementation of a Washington, D.C., decriminalization law.[72]

Cuellar is an opponent of the Rohrabacher–Farr amendment which would limit the enforcement of the federal law criminalizing marijuana in states that have legalized medical cannabis.[73]

PRO Act

Cuellar voted against the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act in 2021 and 2022.[74][75]

Perceptics

Cuellar has supported automated license plate recognition federal contractor Perceptics and has been linked to lobbying on behalf of the firm by Podesta Group. Perceptics CEO John Dalton called him a "friendly congressman" for Perceptics.[76]

Russian invasion of Ukraine

Cuellar supports US support for Ukraine in the wake of Russia's invasion.[77][78] In the wake of news that the Iranian regime was supplying drones to Russia to use in the war, Cuellar led a bipartisan letter calling for the Biden administration to cripple Iran's access to technology so that American-made technology isn't used to feed Russia's war.[79]

San Antonio to Monterrey rail

Cuellar is a leading proponent for the proposed expansion of passenger rail from San Antonio, Texas to Monterrey, Mexico, a project he has advocated for since 2008.[80][81][82] He spearheaded support for feasibility studies by both the United States and Mexican governments on the proposal and has sought federal funding to supplement private funds in a public-private partnership.[83] An agreement has been signed between United States and Mexican officials to explore the proposal.[84]

The project is supported by Samuel García, governor of Nuevo León state where Monterrey is located.[83] The governor visited Washington, DC in 2021 on a trip hosted by Cuellar's office to build support for the proposal link.[85] The train's route would connect San Antonio to Monterrey in 2 hours, with a stop in Laredo, within Cuellar's district.[86][87]

Trump impeachment

On December 18, 2019, Cuellar voted in favor of both articles of impeachment against Trump.[88]

Following the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters, Cuellar called for a second impeachment of Donald Trump.[89] At the subsequent trial, on January 13, he voted in favor of impeachment.[90]

FBI investigation and indictment

On January 19, 2022, the FBI obtained a search warrant for Cuellar's Laredo residence and campaign office as part of a federal probe relating to Azerbaijan, known for its practice of "caviar diplomacy" and money laundering scandals like the Azerbaijani Laundromat.[91][92][93][94][95] A federal grand jury also issued subpoenas for records related to Cuellar, his wife, and at least one campaign staffer related to the matter.[96] Cuellar has taken an interest in Azerbaijan and co-chairs the Congressional Azerbaijan Caucus.[96]

As of May 2022, Cuellar's lawyer maintained Cuellar was innocent and was not a target of the investigation; the FBI had made no statement at that point.[97] In response, party leaders including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi reaffirmed their support for Cuellar.[98] As of January 2023, no arrests had been made in the case, the FBI had not indicated Cuellar was a person of interest and Cueller was not believed to be the subject of the investigation.[99] Cuellar easily won reelection following the incident.[99]

On May 3, 2024, Cuellar and his wife, Imelda, were indicted on money laundering, conspiracy, and bribery charges.[100] The indictment says that nearly $600,000 in bribes from Azerbaijan and a Mexican commercial bank was laundered into shell companies owned by Imelda from December 2014 through at least November 2021.[101][102] After the indictment was unsealed, Cuellar released a supportive statement regarding his wife.[103] Former president Donald Trump defended Cuellar.[104]

After Cuellar's indictment, two political advisors he had worked with pled guilty to charges that they had conspired with Cuellar to launder more than $200,000 in bribes from a Mexican bank. Cuellar's indictment accuses him of accepting money from a Mexican bank in exchange for "influencing the Treasury Department to work around an anti-money laundering policy that threatened the bank's interests." The advisors, including Cuellar's former campaign manager, Colin Strother, allegedly facilitated the payments. Strother and Florencio "Lencho" Rendon struck plea deals in exchange for cooperating with the investigation into Cuellar; they each face up to 20 years in prison and fines in excess of $100,000. Cuellar has said he is innocent of the charges and that his actions were "consistent with the actions of many of my colleagues and in the interest of the American people."[105]

Personal life

Cuellar is one of eight children. His father was an immigrant migrant worker.[7] A brother, Martin Cuellar, serves as Sheriff in Webb County.[106] A sister, Rosie Cuellar, is the municipal judge in Rio Bravo.[107]

He and his wife, Imelda, have two daughters. In 2014, Cuellar portrayed George Washington during the annual Washington's Birthday Celebration in Laredo.[108][109]

Cuellar is Roman Catholic.[110]

On October 2, 2023, at around 9:30.p.m. ET, Cuellar was held at gunpoint and carjacked by three robbers outside of his Washington D.C. apartment residence. The suspects stole Cuellar's vehicle as well as his luggage, though the car and all of his belongings were recovered by law enforcement a few hours later. [111] Cuellar was reportedly unharmed. A police investigation is ongoing.[112][113]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ The average member of the caucus voted with the majority on 96.6% of occasions.

References

  1. ^ "Legislators and Leaders | Member profile". Legislative Reference Library of Texas. Retrieved December 24, 2019.
  2. ^ "Cuellar, Henry, (1955–)". Biographical directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved June 9, 2016.
  3. ^ a b c d Rodrigo, Chris Mills (June 13, 2019). "Justice Democrats endorse primary challenge to Texas Dem Cuellar". The Hill. Retrieved June 17, 2019.
  4. ^ Mutnick, Ally (March 4, 2020). "Cuellar edges out liberal challenger in Texas, and other Super Tuesday House results". Politico. Retrieved August 6, 2021.
  5. ^ a b c Jessica Cisneros files for recount in race against Rep. Henry Cuellar in Texas' 28th District, CBS News, Aaron Navarro, June 7, 2022. Retrieved June 8, 2022.
  6. ^ "Martin Siller Cuellar, Sr". Legacy.com. April 14, 2019.
  7. ^ a b "Obituary: Martin Siller Cuellar, Sr". Houston Chronicle. April 14, 2019.
  8. ^ "Odilia P. Cuellar". Laredo Morning Times. December 15, 2019. Retrieved April 14, 2019.
  9. ^ a b c McCumber, David (September 29, 2014). "From the House on the Hill: Congressman looks back at his life". Laredo Morning Times. pp. 1, 7A.
  10. ^ "Playbook: Biden blasted over border blunder". Politico. May 12, 2023.
  11. ^ Caldwell, Leigh Ann; Meyer, Theodoric (August 22, 2023). "Analysis | Chance of a government shutdown grows". The Washington Post. Retrieved October 3, 2023.
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  36. ^ Schonfeld, Zach. Cuellar narrowly defeats Cisneros in Texas House primary, The Hill, June 21, 2022.
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  39. ^ a b Elkind, Elizabeth (August 3, 2023). "Lone pro-life House Democrat gets endorsement from party leaders despite progressive fury". Fox News. Retrieved August 24, 2023.
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External links

Texas House of Representatives
Preceded by
Billy Hall
Member of the Texas House of Representatives
from the 43rd district

1987–1993
Succeeded by
Preceded by Member of the Texas House of Representatives
from the 42nd district

1993–2001
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by Secretary of State of Texas
2001
Succeeded by
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Texas's 28th congressional district

2005–present
Incumbent
Party political offices
Preceded by Chair of the Blue Dog Coalition for Communications
2017–2019
Served alongside: Jim Costa (Administration), Dan Lipinski (Policy)
Succeeded by
U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Jim Costa
United States representatives by seniority
58th
Succeeded by
This page was last edited on 17 June 2024, at 18:25
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