Fossil Fuel Allies in Congress Stand With Embattled Rep. Henry Cuellar

Cuellar, who has the worst environmental voting record of any Democrat of Congress, faces a competitive primary challenge from Green New Deal-backer Jessica Cisneros.

Fossil Fuel Allies in Congress Stand With Embattled Rep. Henry Cuellar
U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX)

Although the Democrats in control of Congress and the White House haven’t taken strong action to address climate change, they usually shy away from aligning themselves openly with the fossil fuel industry whose carbon emissions are the primary factor behind the crisis that threatens the future of civilization as we know it. But there is still a small contingency of the party who are proud to stand with the industry⁠—mostly representatives from heavy fossil fuel-producing states⁠—and right now one of their most senior members is at risk of being ousted by an environmentalist. 

Texas Democrat Henry Cuellar, who has been dubbed “Big Oil’s Favorite Democrat,” often votes with Republicans on energy policy matters. Last year, he was one of four House Democrats to vote with all Republicans against the ESG Disclosure Simplification Act that would require publicly-traded companies to publicly disclose their climate change-related risks, including their direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions and fossil fuel-related assets, among other things. In 2019, Cuellar voted with Republicans against protecting the Arctic Refuge from oil and gas exploration, against banning offshore drilling in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, and against a permanent moratorium on offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. His lifetime score from the League of Conservation Voters is 50%, the lowest score of all Democrats in Congress and lower than several Republicans. He’s so supportive of the oil and gas industry that the American Petroleum Institute spent $1.3 million to back his 2020 election campaign through a pop-up dark money group. The oil and gas industry has given Cuellar more than $1.1 million in campaign donations since 2001, making it his top donor industry according to OpenSecrets. 

This year, Cuellar is facing a strong primary challenge from Jessica Cisneros, a progressive who supports strong climate action including the Green New Deal, because, her website says, “the way we address climate change needs to be as aggressive as the threat it poses.” Cuellar and Cisneros are heading to a runoff election on May 24, after neither got more than 50 percent of the vote in the March 1 primary election. Cisneros has raised more money than Cuellar, and she is benefitting from more than a million dollars of spending by outside super PACs on ads that promote her.