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Power women; Hutchison and Pelosi visit Laredo separately

Zachary Franz, Laredo Morning Times

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Laredo, TX, November 17, 2007 | comments
Two of the most powerful women in the country are scheduled to be in Laredo today.House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., the third-most powerful politician in the country, will tour the region with U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, where she will meet some of the nation's most impoverished citizens.

And U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison will visit Texas A&M International University to discuss the importance of education and, specifically TAMIU's GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) program.

After meeting with parents and students involved in the GEAR UP program, Hutchison is scheduled to briefly address the media.

The itinerary for Pelosi's visit includes a trip to Los Ranchitos colonia and a tour of the Lincoln-Juarez Bridge, Cuellar said.

"I'm hoping we can turn her into an ally so we can ask the federal government to provide more money for people in the colonias," Cuellar said in a telephone interview from Washington, D.C., where Congress is in session.

"As a congressman, I want to make sure that people realize that in our country we still have places that don't have basic facilities," he said.

Following the trip to the colonia, Customs and Border Protection Port Director Gene Garza is scheduled to guide Pelosi on a tour of the international bridge.

Cuellar said he hopes that seeing the long lines of the cars waiting to cross the border will help Pelosi recognize that upgrades are needed at the Laredo Port of Entry.

"We need to bring to her attention that we need more infrastructure, more people, more funding to the port," Cuellar said. "(International trade) is so important to us, and having people wait at bridges for an hour is not fair."

In the past, federal officials have paid more attention to air and seaports of entry, Cuellar said.

"I want her to understand the importance of land ports, too," he said.

After the bridge tour, Pelosi will address the media and attend a fundraiser for Cuellar.

As Speaker of the House, Pelosi is the presiding officer of the House of Representatives. She is second in the presidential line of succession, and would take the office of president if the president and vice president were incapacitated.

Pelosi is a Democrat, and represents California's eighth congressional district in San Francisco. This will be her first visit to Laredo as a member of Congress. She visited McAllen in September and was recently in Austin. Pelosi and Cuellar plan to be in San Antonio on Saturday morning, where they will attend a rally in support of the Children's Health Insurance Program. She has spoken out against construction of a border wall.

Although Pelosi will only spend about four hours in Laredo, Cuellar said he thinks it will be a good opportunity for the city.

"I think this is a prime time for us to show what Laredo is all about," Cuellar said, "to show that we do have some problems we need to work on, but that Laredo is a good place to raise a family."

(Contact reporter Zachary Franz at 728-2582 or by e-mail at zfranz@lmtonline.com)
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