Tags: Barack Obama | Castro-Cuba | Marco Rubio | Marco Rubio | Cuba | embassy | White House

White House Slams Rubio Over His Attacks on Cuba Deal

By    |   Thursday, 18 December 2014 05:41 PM

The White House on Thursday hit back against Florida Sen. Marco Rubio's harsh attacks on President Barack Obama's plans to normalize relations with Cuba, saying he should back the deal because he supported the confirmation of an ambassador to China earlier this year.

"One of the leading proponents of this strategy of shutting off funding for the construction of this embassy and appointing an ambassador to Cuba is Sen.Rubio, of course," White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters at a daily news briefing.

A video of the session was posted on Mediaite. News of Earnest's remarks were first reported by The Washington Times.

Earnest was responding to a reporter's question about whether a new embassy would be needed in Havana, since American diplomatic personnel currently work out of the U.S. Interests Section housed in the former U.S. Embassy on the Malecón.

The spokesman was not asked about Rubio or his criticism of the deal Obama announced on Wednesday.

Citing Rubio's statements from the confirmation hearing of former Democratic Sen. Max Baucus as Beijing ambassador in January, Earnest hinted that those comments conflicted with his statements on Wednesday about Havana.

China has long been under attack for its human-rights abuses. Baucus was confirmed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, of which Rubio is a member.

"In thinking about this," Earnest continued, "it occurs to me that it seems odd Sen. Rubio would be reluctant and, in fact, actively seeking to block the appointment of an ambassador to Cuba when earlier this year he voted to confirm the ambassador to China that the president nominated."

He then added parenthetically that Baucus was Rubio's "former colleague," who was "doing an excellent job of representing the United States in China.

"The other thing I noticed that, in the context of those hearings, Sen. Rubio said something that this administration wholeheartedly agrees with," Earnest said. "Let me read it to you."

As chuckles began within the press corps, the spokesman said: "All right. Isn't this good?"

"You brought that with you, huh?" one reporter shouted. The laughter increased.

"I know. … I know," Earnest responded, smiling. "Be careful what you ask for."

He then read Rubio's comment from the Jan. 28 hearing:

"I think you'll find broad consensus on this committee and I hope in the administration, that our embassy should be viewed as an ally of those within Chinese society that are looking to express their fundamental rights to speak out and to worship freely.

"We think the exact same thing can be said of the new embassy in Cuba," Earnest said.

Reporters then asked Earnest about President Barack Obama's last scheduled press briefing of the year, to be held on Friday.

Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants, emerged as the most fierce critic of Obama's plan to re-establish ties with Havana after more than half a century.

The deal was reached after 18 months of secret talks brokered by Pope Francis and the Canadian government. The agreement with Cuban President Raul Castro freed American subcontractor Alan Gross from five years of captivity in Havana in exchange for three Cubans who had been convicted of spying on the United States.

The plan also includes opening embassies in both countries.

Washington ended diplomatic relations with Havana in 1961 — two years after Raul's older brother, Fidel Castro, came to power — and a year after the United States began its trade embargo.

Rubio was among many Republicans and some Democrats who bitterly attacked Obama's plan while praising Gross' release. He vowed to use his position as head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's Western Hemisphere subcommittee in the new Congress to try to block Obama's efforts.

"This notion that somehow being able to travel more to Cuba, to sell more consumer products, the idea that's going to lead to some democratic opening is absurd," Rubio told Fox News on Wednesday. "But it's par for the course with this administration constantly giving away unilateral concessions … in exchange for nothing."

The senator, who is considering a run for the Republican nomination in 2016, slammed the deal further on Thursday, saying it was "a victory for oppressive governments the world over" and charging that it would "have real, negative consequences for the American people.

"Since the U.S. severed diplomatic relations in 1961, the Castro family has controlled the country and the economy with an iron fist that punishes Cubans who speak out in opposition and demand a better future," Rubio said on his website. "Under the Castros, Cuba has also been a central figure in terrorism, narco-trafficking, and all manner of misery and mayhem in our hemisphere.

"The opportunity for Cuba to normalize relations with the U.S. has always been there, but the Castro regime has never been interested in changing its ways. Now, thanks to President Obama's concessions, the regime in Cuba won't have to change."

A Rubio spokeswoman did not respond to a Newsmax request seeking comment.

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The White House on Thursday hit back against Florida Sen. Marco Rubio's harsh attacks against President Obama's plans to normalize relations with Cuba, saying he should back the deal because he supported the confirmation of an ambassador to China earlier this year.
Marco Rubio, Cuba, embassy, White House, Obama, prisoners, swap
Thursday, 18 December 2014 05:41 PM
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