GOP Softens on Cuba


It's been exactly one year since the U.S. and Cuba announced they would restore diplomatic ties, and while President Barack Obama has yet to visit the island, Republican resistance has diminished to the point where some predict the next Congress will end the U.S. embargo, Politico reports.

As Republican lawmakers jet over to the communist-led island to "check out the scene," not only do many see the potential for economic cooperation, but polls also show that the majority of Americans are supportive of increased engagement with the country.
"To the extent that there was some resistance, maybe some broad resistance, there's now [just] pockets of resistance to diplomatic relations," said Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, a Republican who has long been a proponent for engaging with Cuba, Politico reports.

"The problem is, particularly for members who have been here long enough to have a history of voting on Cuba, it's tough to change," Flake said. "It's tough to turn around, particularly because the Castros are still alive and there."

While Obama noted in an interview released Monday with Yahoo! that he would like to visit the country just 90 miles off of the U.S. next year, it is likely that it will be years before the two countries are on the same page with essential issues.

"Normalizing our relationship ... is a complex, long-term process, and we will continue to work with Cuba to address areas of mutual concern as well as areas of difference," a senior administration official told Politico.

Despite some GOP lawmakers having a change in heart towards the rapprochement, others such as presidential candidates Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz — who are both Cuban American — have spoken out against the agreement and declared to block any attempts by the president to announce an ambassador to Cuba.

However, on the opposite end of the spectrum, presidential front-runner Donald Trump — though he says he would have cooked up a better deal than Obama — is fully supportive of the rapprochement, yet many are surprised that the topic has not been mentioned on the campaign trail.

"Nobody brings it up. It doesn't come up at one debate from a moderator," said the president of the Engage Cuba Coalition, James Williams. "If this had any vote traction whatsoever, somebody would be talking about it."