Henry Roberto Cuellar (born September 19, 1955) is the U.S Representative for Texas's 28th congressional district, serving since 2005. He is a member of the Democratic Party. The district extends from the Rio Grande to the suburbs of San Antonio, including Guadalupe County and nearby Wilson County.
Outside of politics, he has served as a professor at the Texas A&M International University (TAMIU) in Laredo, TX.
Early life, education, and pre-political career
Cuellar was born in Laredo, the seat of Webb County in southern Texas, where he has resided most of his life. Cuellar's parents, Mr. and Mrs. Martin S.
Cuellar, Sr., were migrant workers who never completed schooling beyond the fifth grade. He is the oldest of eight children. His brother, Martin Cuellar, Jr., is the sheriff of Webb County, having been elected in 2008 over the incumbent fellow Democrat Rick Flores. A sister, Rosie Cuellar-Castillo, is the incoming Laredo municipal judge, having won a nonpartisan runoff election held on December 11, 2010.
Cuellar graduated in 1973 from J. W. cum laude with a bachelor's degree in foreign service. He also holds a master's degree in International Trade from Texas A&M International University in Laredo and a Juris Doctor and a Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin. With a total of five degrees, Cuellar is the most degreed member of Congress serving in the House.
Nixon High School, a classmate of future Webb County District Attorney Joe Rubio, Jr. Cuellar then procured an associate's degree from Laredo Community College (then known as Laredo Junior College), where he would later for a time instruct government courses on an adjunct basis. He then attended the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and graduated
Cuellar opened his own law firm in 1981 and became a licensed customs broker in 1983. He worked at his alma mater, TAMIU, as an Adjunct Professor for International Commercial Law from 1984 to 1986.
Early political career
Texas House of Representatives
Prior to being elected to the United States House of Representatives, Cuellar was a member of the Texas House of Representatives from 1987 to 2001, having represented the major portion of Laredo. During his 14 years as Laredo’s state representative, he served in leadership positions in the House Appropriations, Higher Education, and Calendar committees. His most notable accomplishments in the Texas State Legislature included coauthoring the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), which ensured health care for thousands of previously uninsured children, and cosponsoring the largest tax cut in Texas history, which included a three-day tax holiday for consumers and small businesses.
He also served on several national legislative committees dealing with state budgets, the U.S./Mexico border, and international trade.
Texas Secretary of State
In 2001, Cuellar was appointed as Secretary of State of Texas by Republican Governor Rick Perry. As Secretary of State for nearly ten months, he supported new voter initiatives to register, educate, and protect voters’ rights, as well as efforts to expand the Border/Mexico Affairs office to help the colonias. He also implemented new technology to make state agencies more customer-friendly and results-oriented.
Cuellar is a member of the New Democrat Coalition. He has been given a Senior Whip position within the caucus and is also the Subcommittee Chairman for House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border, Maritime and Global Counterterrorism. He also serves as the only Texas Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee.
Cuellar describes himself as a "moderate-centrist". Washington Post photographer snapped a photo of Cuellar standing on the Republican side of the aisle, beaming as President Bush affectionately grabbed his face. Soon after the release of this photo, campaign contributions for his Democratic primary opponent, Ciro Rodriguez, saw an immediate and significant increase. Cuellar defeated Rodriguez in the primary election and since then has seen an increased role within the Democratic House Caucus.
In the 2006 primary, he gained the endorsement of the Club for Growth, a conservative group that usually endorses Republicans. He has not always been a party loyalist; he endorsed Republican George W. Bush for President in 2000 but supported John F. Kerry in 2004. Additionally, during Bush's 2006 State of the Union address, a
On June 26, 2009, Cuellar voted with the House majority to pass, 219-212, the cap and trade legislation, the American Clean Energy and Security Act. He also supported the Affordable Health Care for America Act, which also narrowly passed the House and in December 2009 met the threshold for shutting off debate in the U.S. Senate by a single vote. As a pro-life Democrat, Cuellar expressed concerns that the Senate health care bill allowed federal funding for abortion. Cuellar voted on March 21, 2010, for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which passed the chamber, 219-212, the same vote as "cap-and-trade."
On June 15, 2007, Cuellar announced that he was endorsing then U.S. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton for President in 2008: "Senator Clinton is the only candidate with the experience and toughness to hit the ground running on her first day in the White House." In 2007, Cuellar held a fundraiser for Clinton in Laredo, which raised over $200,000 – aided by the presence of former President Bill Clinton. Laredo's Democratic Mayor Raul G. Salinas joined Cuellar in early support of Hillary Clinton, who came to Laredo in October 2008 to endorse Cuellar's reelection to the U.S. House. On November 4, 2008, Democrat Barack Obama defeated Republican John McCain in Webb County with a margin of 71-28 percent.
Congressman Cuellar is the author and one of two main co-sponsors of 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.
Cuellar and his wife, Imelda, have two daughters, Christina Alexandra and Catherine Ann. He has been recognized by the city of Laredo with two schools named in his honor: the Doctor Henry Cuellar Elementary School and the Representative Henry Cuellar Charter School.
February 20th, 2012