Nancy Pelosi backs Henry Cuellar in Texas Democratic primary runoff

AUSTIN, Texas – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday affirmed her support for U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Laredo Democrat competing in a primary runoff against Jessica Cisneros on May 24.

Cuellar, a centrist Democrat, has come under intense scrutiny after the FBI raided his home in January.

“I support my incumbents,” Pelosi, D-Calif., said Wednesday, speaking to reporters after an Austin event to mark the anniversary of the Affordable Care Act. “I support every one of them, from right to left. That is what I do.”

Pelosi visited Laredo to campaign on Cuellar’s behalf during the 2020 Democratic primary campaign, when he first faced a challenge from Cisneros, a progressive Democrat who has earned endorsements from Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.

More: FBI raids leave Cuellar vulnerable to Democratic challenger in key congressional race

Cisneros lost to Cuellar by 4 percentage points in 2020 and decided to again challenge the incumbent this year. She finished the March primary 2 percentage points behind Cuellar, denying him a majority of the vote and forcing a runoff.

Federal authorities have not made any accusations against Cuellar or released details about their January raid, and the nine-term congressman has denied any wrongdoing.

Asked by the American-Statesman whether the FBI matter gives her pause when offering her endorsement, Pelosi said: “I don’t know what it is. I haven’t seen anything, have you? Do you know what it’s about?”

Cuellar’s 28th Congressional District is one of five seats national Republicans are targeting this year in their effort to regain a majority in the U.S. House.

Pelosi said her priority is winning in November.

“We have no intention of losing,” she said.

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Texas policy on transgender youth

Pelosi also spoke at the LBJ Presidential Library late Tuesday and had harsh words for Gov. Greg Abbott's directive for state authorities to investigate as child abuse when parents offer certain medical care to transgender children.

“With stiff competition mind you, this is one of the most heinous of proposals that I have heard,” she said. “I mean, really? Families with their children, and the government wants to intervene and say we don’t like the way you are meeting the needs of your children?”

State courts have temporarily blocked enforcement of the directive, which has drawn intense backlash from advocacy groups and medical experts across the country.

Pelosi said she has seen parents across the country embrace their transgender children and offer them support, adding, "What is the right of the governor of this state to intervene in that?"

More: Backlash greets Gov. Greg Abbott order to treat gender-affirming care as child abuse

Texas abortion ban

Pelosi also addressed federal efforts to codify Roe vs. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision that established a constitutional right to abortion, in light of efforts by Texas and other states to severely restrict access to the procedure.

The U.S. House passed the Women’s Health Protection Act in September, a measure that supersedes state laws on abortion and protects the right to access and perform an abortion. But the Senate did not pass the bill.

“I don’t right now frankly see that in the United States,” Pelosi said, when asked whether a federal measure on the issue was still possible.

For now, the fate of abortion rights lies with the U.S. Supreme Court, which is considering a challenge to a Mississippi law banning abortion at 15 weeks.

More: How the Supreme Court's ruling on a Mississippi abortion law will affect Texas

In December, the court signaled that it is open to upholding the law, but it remains unclear exactly how far the court might go to undermine its past landmark decisions on the issue.

Pelosi said the court’s decision not to intervene and block enforcement of Texas’ six-week ban on abortion is evidence of its position on the issue.

“One thing I will say about the court, how they could have ever allowed the Texas law to stand, and the vigilante aspect of it, really tells you something about how low they will go to disrespect women,” Pelosi said.

The law bans abortion before most people are aware they are pregnant and leaves enforcement up to the public, allowing private citizens to file civil suits against abortion providers or people who aid or abet an abortion that violates the law. Successful litigants can collect at least $10,000.

More: Texas Supreme Court rules against providers in challenge to six-week abortion ban

This article originally appeared on Austin American-Statesman: Nancy Pelosi says she supports Henry Cuellar in reelection bid