GOP senators slam Obama's Cuba moves

Sens. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainCNN's Ana Navarro to host Biden roundtable on making 'Trump a one-term president' Mark Kelly clinches Democratic Senate nod in Arizona Prominent conservatives question Jerry Falwell Jr. vacation photo MORE (Ariz.) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamThe Hill's Campaign Report: Trump's visit to battleground Ohio overshadowed by coronavirus New polls show tight races for Graham, McConnell Yates spars with GOP at testy hearing MORE (S.C.), two leading Republican voices on foreign policy, joined their GOP colleagues Wednesday in denouncing President Obama’s plans to begin normalizing relations with Cuba.

“Unfortunately, today’s chapter, like the others before it, is one of America and the values it stands for in retreat and decline,” they said in a joint statement. “It is about the appeasement of autocratic dictators, thugs, and adversaries, diminishing America’s influence in the world. Is it any wonder that under President Obama’s watch our enemies are emboldened and our friends demoralized?”

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McCain, the incoming chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, and Graham, his Armed Services ally, warned Obama’s outreach to Cuba foreshadows a soft approach to Iran.

“We dread the day President Obama takes to the podium to announce a nuclear deal with the Iranian ayatollahs which does little, if anything, to deter their nuclear ambitions, placing our nation and our closest allies in even deeper peril," they wrote.

McCain and Graham were part of a growing chorus of critical Republican voices.

Sen. Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteBottom line Bottom line Bottom Line MORE (R-N.H.), who frequently teams up with them on international issues, said in a statement that Cuba remains a state sponsor of terrorism that deprives its people of basic liberties.

“By seeking to normalize relations, the administration is rewarding the very behavior we want to end and sending a confusing message to political prisoners in Cuba and around the world,” she said.

She argues the administration should have pressed Cuban President Raúl Castro to agree to political and human rights reforms in exchange for easing restrictions on trade and travel to the Communist nation.

Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioThe Hill's Campaign Report: US officials say Russia, China are looking to sow discord in election US intelligence says Russia seeking to 'denigrate' Biden From a Republican donor to Senate GOP: Remove marriage penalty or risk alienating voters MORE (R-Fla.), a Cuban-American who also serves on the Foreign Relations panel, earlier in the day blasted Obama as the “single-worst negotiator we’ve had in the White House in my lifetime.”

He called it “a victory for the repressive Cuban government” and a “serious setback for the repressed Cuban people,” portraying the easing of sanctions as a reward for Castro’s decision to free 53 political prisoners.


Rubio said those dissidents could find themselves back in prison within days if they continue to criticize the regime.

Rubio vowed the Republican-controlled Senate and House will block lifting the broader embargo on Cuba next year.

Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntSkepticism grows over Friday deadline for coronavirus deal GOP expects Senate to be in session next week without coronavirus deal House Republicans introduce legislation to give states 0 million for elections MORE (Mo.), a member of the Senate Republican leadership, called Wednesday's announcement the latest in a string of poor policy decisions by the president.

He said greater trade with Cuba would help Castro stay in power and do little to ease political repression.

“I don’t think you can effectively do that as long as the Castro brothers are in charge of Cuba," he said in a conference call.

“I think beginning to send more money and other things that will be a logical part of any restoration to Cuba is not helpful for the long term,” he added.

But not all Republicans were critical.

Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeCheney clashes with Trump Sessions-Tuberville Senate runoff heats up in Alabama GOP lawmakers stick to Trump amid new criticism MORE (R-Ariz.), a member of the Foreign Relations panel, said a majority of Congress supports an overhaul of the nation's Cuba policy.

"My sense is that most of my colleagues feel we are long past due, and so I think the politics are good," he said at a press conference.