House GOP looks to block funds for US embassy in Cuba

Cuba, Embargo, Foreign Relations
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House Republicans have included language in a bill funding the State Department in fiscal 2016 that would block funding for the creation of a new U.S. embassy in Cuba.

The provisions are an attempt to further undermine President Obama’s policy to normalize relations with the Communist nation.

“The bill includes a prohibition on funds for an embassy or other diplomatic facility in Cuba, beyond what was in existence prior to the President’s December announcement proposing changes to the U.S.-Cuba policy,” according to a summary of the bill.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told reporters Tuesday the GOP is using the appropriations process to establish its priorities, which includes Cuba.

"I think we have been very clear with our challenges with what's going on with Cuba and human rights, and we have a difference of opinion with the administration and we have a right to express it," he said.

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Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) is a member of the subcommittee that prepared the bill. The Cuban-American has staunchly opposed the president’s new policy and has supported the inclusion of riders in other House GOP spending bills that would limit travel from the U.S. to Cuba and limit U.S. exports to the island.

The $47.8 billion measure would also restrict funding to allow for the opening of a Cuban embassy in the United States and would increase democracy assistance and international broadcasting to Cuba.

Under the bill, the secretary of State would be directed to deny issuing visas to members of the Communist party and Cuban military.

When Obama announced the new policy in December, some Republicans such as Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) began threatening to withhold funding for the creation of a new embassy.

On Monday, the State Department said they didn’t have any further detail about the timeline for the opening of a new embassy.

“We really just don’t have any more details about where the process goes from here. We’ve had productive conversations. There are still some issues that need to be worked out. We don’t have more details about how that will happen,” said Marie Harf, senior advisor for strategic communications at the State Department.

Late last week, the Obama administration removed Cuba from a list of state sponsors of terror.

--Scott Wong contributed to this report, which was updated at 11:42 a.m.