Cuellar’s support from Democratic leaders threatens their crediblity with abortion activists
The House’s only anti-abortion Democrat has just waded into a scandal regarding his treatment of pregnant staffers at a time when the Demokraties Party is seeking to provide a unified voice in opposition to the apparent impended reversal of Roe v WadeSe precedent.
The Associated Pressreported in 2019 that Henry Cuellar, a Texas congressman facing a tough primary challenge (and a separate, unrelated FBI investigation) fired a staffer during the third trimester of her pregnancy after denying her maternity leave; her pregnancy would end in stillbirth just days later. That dispute ended in a lawsuit, filed by the former staffer, which was settled for an undisclosed amount between her and the congressman’s office.
Nou, Jezebel is reporting that Mr Cuellar went even further than was previously reported in his attempts to, as Kristie Smalls characterised it in her lawsuit against him, punish her for getting pregnant. According to the news outlet, Mr Cuellar solicited letters from his other staffers regarding Ms Smalls’s performance after she was fired. Some of those letters were solicited and written after Ms Smalls filed her lawsuit and others came before her complaint was made.
The letters detailed minor gripes about Ms Smalls’s performance that could hardly be considered fireable offences. Among the complaints were her inabilty to catch some typos in official press releases before they were sent out (typically the job of the press team) and in one instance asking a staffer to drive her daughter back to her office from an event.
The congressman’s office declined to comment on Jezebel’s verslagdoening. According to the original lawsuit, the congressman was informed by his then-acting chief of staff that she was pregnant in August of 2018, only for the conservative Democrat to inform her that there was a supposed 90-day probationary period for all new staffers before they were able to take maternity leave benefits.
A judge ruled that there were serious questions to be raised regarding whether the policy was being applied uniformly and surrounding what the real reason was for Ms Smalls’s firing. The policy was not mentioned in her employee handbook, the former aide alleged in her lawsuit, adding that she had never been told about it beforehand.
Op daardie stadium, a spokesman for the congressman stated that Ms Smalls’s account of the facts surrounding the dispute, including her personal work performance, was inaccurate.
“Please be assured … that Ms. Smalls’s complaint does not provide a complete or accurate representation of her employment with the Office of Congressman Cuellar or the circumstances of the termination of her employment," hulle het gesê.
The situation presents a problem for Democrats on Capitol Hill, who are rallying around the issue of protecting the right to an abortion but face strong criticism from the progressive left surrounding whether their words will be backed up with effective action. The support of Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Whip Jim Clyburn for Mr Cuellar in his competitive primary against a progressive challenger who supports the right to abortion complicates that image that the Democratic establishment is trying to conjure as it seeks to convince its base that they have a reason to re-elect Democratic majorities in the House and Senate in November.
Mr Cuellar’s challenger, Jessica Cisneros, did not comment on Jezebel’s reporting but has been a vocal critic of Democrats for supporting her opponent.
“I am calling on Democratic Party leadership to withdraw their support of Henry Cuellar who is the last anti-choice Democrat in the House,” she said in a statement last Wednesday. “With the House majority on the line, he could very much be the deciding vote on the future of our reproductive rights and we cannot afford to take that risk.”