Republicans are threatening to block efforts by President Obama to reopen the American embassy in Cuba as the U.S. thaws relations with the island nation.
Congressional Republicans say they could take advantage of their new Senate control by refusing to approve a new ambassador or set aside funding for the embassy.
That includes South Carolina’s Third District Congressman Jeff Duncan, who will now chair the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere. “We all have a like mind that the administration got this one wrong,” he told Greenwood affiliate WCRS, adding that it would require Congress to take some actions. “They still have to get funding for an embassy. They still have to get an ambassador confirmed by the Senate. That ain’t going to happen. A lot of this is just for optics.”
Both of South Carolina’s senators Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott echoed Duncan. “Normalizing relations with Cuba is a bad idea at a bad time,” Graham tweeted on Wednesday, vowing to block any funding that would reopen the U.S. embassy in Havana. Scott added that he was glad to see American hostage Alan Gross released as part of the deal, but added that he was concerned the president was rewarding Cuba for decades of human rights abuses.
Duncan said he thinks the U.S. should have gotten much more out of the agreement besides the release of a hostage. “This administration has done a terrible job negotiating on this deal,” he told WCRS. “America got nothing, other than the ability to bring some Cuban cigars back when you travel to Havana.”
Fourth District Congressman Trey Gowdy told Greenville affiliate WORD News that his issue was the president acting unilaterally. “He’s doing it intentionally where the voters would never have a chance to rebuke him,” he told WORD’s Vince Coakley. “If he’s so right about it… then he needs to face the voters.”
At least one GOP congressman went against his colleagues. First District Congressman Mark Sanford said he supports the deal. “(U.S.) Cuba travel policy was inconsistent with our country’s founding principle of individual liberty and the freedom of movement that should come with it,” Sanford said in an email to news organizations. “In fact with the exception of Cuba, we are allowed to travel to any country in the world. Think about that. Americans could travel to Iran, North Korea or Syria, but not Cuba fifty miles off our coast?”
Besides embassy funding, Congress would also need to approve ending the trade embargo that bans US companies from importing or exporting to Cuba.