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Democratic leadership backs U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, despite anti-abortion stance

House majority whip Jim Clyburn campaigned in San Antonio Wednesday for Cuellar, the only anti-abortion Democrat in Congress's lower chamber.

SAN ANTONIO — House majority whip Jim Clyburn offered full-throated support Wednesday for U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, the only anti-abortion member in the caucus. 

Clyburn said Cuellar is one of ten "deputy" whips he leans on to help secure legislative victories. 

But some Democrats have expressed frustration party leadership is backing Cuellar, who voted against codifying Roe v. Wade in federal law. 

"I'm a Catholic," Cuellar told KENS 5. "I'm personally against abortion. But do I believe in an outright ban? No."

Cuellar said rape and incest victims should have access to abortion. His stance, he says, reflects most of his constituents' beliefs.

Neither Clyburn nor Cuellar mentioned abortion in their speeches to the San Antonio crowd.

Instead, Clyburn compared party membership to marriage. He said spouses stick together, even when they disagree. 

"We do not grow. We do not get to understand what's going on with other people in other communities... if we agree on everything," Clyburn said. "We have to sit down with people with whom we do not agree."

The whip's presence demonstrates noteworthy support for Cuellar, who is often considered the House's most conservative Democrat. 

After a leaked draft opinion indicated the Supreme Court is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, President Joe Biden said voters should elect "pro-choice" candidates in November.

"At the federal level, we will need more pro-choice Senators and a pro-choice majority in the House to adopt legislation that codifies Roe," Biden said in a statement Tuesday. 

Still, party leadership, including House speaker Nancy Pelosi, has affirmed their support for Cuellar. Pelosi has consistently backed incumbents in primary elections. 

Cuellar faces a more progressive candidate, Jessica Cisneros, in one of the nation's fiercest primaries on May 24. She called on party leadership to withdraw support for Cuellar before Clyburn's appearance in San Antonio. 

"The Democratic party is a big tent," Cuellar said. "Having Jim Clyburn here sends a big message that they're sticking with me." 

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