McALLEN — U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, said Wednesday that he would not vote to impeach President Trump following building pressure on House Democrats to move forward with impeachment proceedings, especially after Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III spoke publicly for the first time following his two-year-long investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.
“The short answer is: Would I vote right now to impeach the president? No,” Cuellar said at a luncheon at the DoubleTree hotel in McAllen during a legislative update panel alongside Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez and moderator Davis Rankin, the KURV radio host.
Cuellar added: “Even if the House is able to pass an impeachment, everybody knows what the Senate is going to do. Why are you going to divide the country more than what it’s been? We got to bring civility back. I’m a big believer in elections, and we’ll see what happens in 2020.”
A moderate Democrat, Cuellar struck a similar tone on impeachment as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who is more liberal than Cuellar. Pelosi has pumped the brakes on House Democrats moving forward with impeachment proceedings, and signaled Wednesday that the House should continue to move forward with its oversight and investigations before determining whether impeaching proceedings should begin.
But some Democrats, especially some on the ballot in 2020, have been a bit more vocal about the need for impeachment. Cuellar is up for re-election in 2020 in the House for the seventh time, and a grass-roots group of progressive Democrats want him out.
In January, Justice Democrats, the left-wing political action committee that helped fuel the upset victory in 2018 of U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Democratic freshman member of Congress from New York, identified Cuellar as a target. The group launched a “primary Cuellar” campaign, but they are seeking to challenge moderate Democrats across the country.
Cuellar was asked on Wednesday about the potential primary challenge.
“One of the things that we see in Washington, D.C. is there’s extremes,” Cuellar said, referring to the far left and far right wings of the Democratic and Republican parties. “And those are the ones that you usually hear about. But there’s a lot of us in the middle that want to get the job done.”
Without naming Ocasio-Cortez, he referenced the New York City borough that makes up part of Ocasio-Cortez’s congressional district.
“I will tell you, I’m not familiar with the Bronx,” Cuellar said. “But the Bronx is very different from the border, and I’ll put my money on the border any time over the Bronx.”
Cuellar’s colleague in South Texas, U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, D-Brownsville, has not faced far-right opposition, and Vela has been more publicly bullish on moving forward with impeachment.
In April, Vela stated his desire to move forward with impeachment proceedings when he signed on as a co-sponsor to a resolution introduced by U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, a freshman Democrat from Michigan who made waves in November 2018 when she said that it was time to “impeach the motherf—–.”
Along with Vela, Tlaib’s resolution has eight co-sponsors, including Ocasio-Cortez.