Republican and Democratic senators starkly disagreed Sunday on President Obama’s decision to try and normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba.
“That is not going to help the Cuban people at all,” said Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonFauci calls Ron Johnson's AIDS comment 'preposterous': 'I don't have any clue of what he's talking about' Wisconsin senators ask outsiders not to exploit parade attack 'for their own political purposes' It's time to bury ZombieCare once and for all MORE (R-Wis.).
“This policy gives us hope,” countered Sen. Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinOvernight Defense & National Security — US tries to deter Russian invasion of Ukraine Senate eyes plan B amid defense bill standoff Senators propose sanctions against Iran over alleged plot to kidnap US journalist MORE (D-Md.).
Speaking on “Fox News Sunday,” the two senators highlighted a rift that has been ongoing since Obama made his announcement last Wednesday.
While many Democrats argue that an easing of relations is necessary to nudge the communist country toward enhanced freedom for its people, some Republicans believe such a move gives credence to a repressive regime.
Obama’s announcement included relaxations on travel restrictions to the country and an easing of banking sanctions.
The White House argued these changes “will make it easier for Cuban citizens to have access to certain lower-priced goods to improve their living standards and gain greater economic independence from the state.”
“No, the Cubans have had access to those kind of goods from other trading partners,” Johnson said on Sunday.
“The country is so underutilized,” Cardin replied. Normalizing relations will help Cubans realize the “country is underperforming,” he added.
“They don’t even have enough vegetables to feed their people,” Cardin said. “It’s in our interest for Cuba to change.”
Obama cannot completely lift the travel or trade ban with Cuba — only Congress can do that. That will certainly set off a debate next year about whether to back or block the White House’s strategy.
“This is another example of President Obama trying to circumvent the spirit of the law,” said Johnson, who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
“I think you’re going to see a change developing in Cuba,” said Cardin, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee as well. “I think you’ll see action in Congress.”