Exhibit A in why a guy who’s already far too frisky with executive power was thinking of new ways to get around Congress before the Cuba deal was announced.
This is no idle threat, incidentally. How’s Obama going to get a nominee past Rubio’s Senate subcommittee?
“I anticipate I’ll be the chairman of the Western Hemisphere subcommittee on the Foreign Relations Committee” in the new Congress, Florida Senator Marco Rubio said in a press conference hours after the release of American prisoner Alan Gross from a Cuban prison was announced along with the administration’s plans to normalize relations with Cuba, including opening an embassy there.
“I anticipate we’re going to have a very interesting couple of years discussing how you’re going to get an ambassador nominated and how you’ll get an embassy funded,” Rubio, an ardent opponent of lifting the Cuban embargo, said.
“I intend to use every tool at our disposal in the majority to unravel as many of these changes as possible,” Rubio said…
“This Congress is not going to lift the embargo,” Rubio said.
Watch the clip below, in which Rubio holds nothing back. This issue is in his wheelhouse, not only as a conservative Cuban-American pol from Florida but as a guy who’s looking to distinguish himself as the cream of the hawkish crop in 2016 if he runs for president. Just one question: Er, is the GOP caucus prepared to go along with him? Superhawks like McCain, Graham, Tom Cotton, and Kelly Ayotte will. Ted Cruz might feel obliged, just to make sure there’s no one in the field next year that’s to his right on any issue that the base is paying attention to. What about the rest? Jeff Flake co-wrote an op-ed with Pat Leahy earlier this year urging Obama to normalize relations with Castro’s Cuba. And various polls show that opposition isn’t the no-brainer for Republicans that it used to be. According to one poll published earlier this year, 52 percent of Republicans support normalization; another poll shows 63 percent support among Floridians and 79 percent support(!) among Floridians of Cuban ancestry specifically. Yet another poll shows 52 percent of Cuban-Americans in Florida support lifting the embargo specifically. And it’s not just voters that Republicans in Congress need to worry about. What about the people who fund their campaigns? The Chamber of Commerce is predictably pleased as punch to see a new market opening up. Will Jeb Bush, who took a harder line on Cuba back when Floridians were taking a hard line themselves, side with his pal Marco or his pals in the Chamber on this one?
Big X factor for Republicans, though: You’re not just swinging behind normalization if you oppose Rubio on this, you’re swinging behind the White House. Obama made this deal, assuredly, because he thought it’d be a feather in his “legacy” cap; supporting the deal means polishing that legacy, and doing so at a moment when the White House has already trampled on separation of powers recently and is threatening to do so again. How many Senate Republicans, especially those up for reelection in 2016, want to explain that vote in a GOP primary? In particular, I’m curious to see how Rand Paul goes on this. There’s an easy compromise position open to him if he wants it — yes, normalization is the way we should go, but yes, Rubio is right that Obama should have extracted a higher price from Castro. And yes, needless to say, it should be up to Congress to lift the embargo, not the president with another rogue action. Stay tuned.
Update: Here’s the answer on Jeb.
USA Today reported Bush, who announced his decision to explore a possible run for the U.S. presidency on Tuesday, opposed negotiating with the communist-led island nation.
“I don’t think we should be negotiating with a repressive regime to make changes in our relationship,” he told an event in Florida, according to the newspaper.