Republicans (and even a couple of Democrats like NJ Sen. Bob Menendez) are not taking this whole "normalization with Cuba" thing well at all. Florida GOP Sen. Marco Rubio spent hours screaming on the cable news shows that Obama had appeased yet another terrorist regime, and Republicans are vowing to permanently block any funding for a new embassy or appointment of an ambassador to Havana.
“It’s part of a long record of coddling dictators and tyrants that this administration has established,” Rubio said on Fox News, one of multiple media appearances he made Wednesday. He insisted that the White House’s plans, which include opening an embassy in Havana, won’t result in more economic freedom or democracy in Cuba, a country that survived decades under a U.S. embargo.
“This notion that somehow being able to travel more to Cuba, to sell more consumer products, the idea that’s going to lead to some democratic opening is absurd,” Rubio said. “But it’s par for the course with this administration constantly giving away unilateral concessions … in exchange for nothing.”
Never mind that this is exactly what Reagan's playbook on the Soviet Union was, and our current playbook with China is now. And Rubio doesn't seem too concerned about either Moscow or Beijing. But where there's foreign policy histrionics, there's Huckleberry Graham.
Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who is expected to chair a powerful Senate panel next year that oversees funding for the State Department and other foreign operations, tweeted that the development is “an incredibly bad idea.” The Republican added later: “I will do all in my power to block the use of funds to open an embassy in Cuba. Normalizing relations with Cuba is bad idea at a bad time.”
But here's the thing: some Republicans are seeing dollar signs in a new Cuban market and want to make the jump.
But incoming Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker, a Republican from Tennessee, was more measured, saying in a statement that he heard the news Wednesday morning and that “as of now there is no real understanding as to what changes the Cuban government is prepared to make.”
And Sen. Jeff Flake, a Republican from Arizona who flew to Cuba to help bring Gross back, warned against rushing to stop the White House’s moves.
“I think that would be really counterproductive to block funding for an embassy,” Flake told reporters at the Capitol, adding: “For those who say this is a concession somehow to the Cuban regime … I think that that is a wrong way to look at it. That is simply wrong. The policy that we’ve had in place for the past 50 years has done more in my view …. to keep the Castro regimes in power than anything we could’ve done.”
The Chamber’s support of the Obama administration’s actions also was evidence of fissures within the GOP over Cuba.
“The U.S. business community welcomes today’s announcement, and has long supported many of the economic provisions the president touched on in his remarks,” Chamber President and CEO Thomas J. Donohue said in a statement.
“We deeply believe that an open dialogue and commercial exchange between the U.S. and Cuban private sectors will bring shared benefits, and the steps announced today will go a long way in allowing opportunities for free enterprise to flourish.”
Somehow I'm thinking there are enough votes to lift the embargo on on Cuba for good, and Rubio is still stuck in 1958. There's also zero doubt in my mind that if any Republican president had done this, Rubio would be on board 100%.