New Cuba Policy Faces Attacks On Capitol Hill But Still Moving Ahead

Feb 5, 2015

Today concluded three days of U.S. congressional hearings on President Obama’s plan to restore diplomatic relations with communist Cuba. The administration faced tough skepticism – at times some outright hostility – but the new policy came out largely unscathed.

Miami Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen speaks at a House Foreign Relations subcommittee hearing on human rights transgressions in Cuba.
Credit C-SPAN

Senate and House committee members from both parties questioned President Obama’s efforts to normalize Cuba relations. Republican Florida Senator Marco Rubio warned Assistant U.S. Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson the policy change “will not be effective” in democratizing Cuba.

Miami Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said the administration is making too many concessions to Cuban leader Raúl Castro without demanding human rights improvements.

“It’s so pathetic for this strong, wonderful, generous country to look so weak when negotiating with the Castro regime,” Ros-Lehtinen told Jacobson.

But Jacobson insisted normalization better positions the U.S. to influence change on the island. She also rejected concerns Obama might give up the U.S. military base at Guantánamo, Cuba – after Castro last week said the U.S. now should.

“The issue of Guantánamo is not on the table in these conversations," she said. "We are not interested in discussing that.”

A new Associated Press-GfK poll this week shows 60 percent of Americans think the U.S. should lift its trade embargo against Cuba.