Sen. Marco Rubio will chair a subcommittee hearing Tuesday examining the Obama administration's policy toward Cuba, an issue which provides the Floridian an opportunity to grab the spotlight and distinguish himself from other prospective Republican presidential candidates.
While Rubio certainly will continue to criticize administration policy, he indicated in a Monday opinion piece that he intends to reach an audience beyond the Capitol Hill hearing room.
"With Cuba in the news recently, many Americans are asking why Cuba matters to them and why they should care. The simple answer is that what happens with Cuba has far-reaching and potentially damaging implications far beyond the island nation. Cuba is not the only rogue regime with which Obama is engaging in an attempt to end bad behavior.
"When America sits at the negotiating table with one tyrant or radical regime, the others — from Iran to North Korea and elsewhere — watch closely and learn best practices that they can apply to advance their own anti-American agendas," Rubio, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere affairs, wrote in the CNN.com opinion piece
The hearing will receive testimony
from State Department officials Roberta S. Jacobson and Tom Malinowski, as well human rights activists, including Rosa Maria Payá, a member of Cuban Christian Liberation Movement and the daughter of slain dissident Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, and Berta Soler, president of Ladies in White.
Although most of the GOP primary field has opposed President Barack Obama's December announcement that he planned to use his executive authority to loosen restrictions on travel to and trade with Cuba, Rubio's outspoken criticism has set him at odds with another potential Republican presidential candidate.
The differences on Cuba, as well as other foreign policy issues, that exists between the Floridian and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul were in the open at a recent forum sponsored by the Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, a not-for-profit connected to Charles and David Koch.
Paul, who supports the administration's effort to lift the trade embargo, contended that maintaining current U.S. policy is a "form of isolationism," an assertion that Rubio promptly rebutted.
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Rubio began his response by diplomatically arguing that everyone, including Obama, have freedom as the eventual goal, but restated his opposition to a policy of ending the embargo.
"The reason why I disagree with that [policy] is that there is not a single contemporary example of that happening," said Rubio, who is the son of a working-class Cuban.
In recent weeks, the senator has provided a glimpse of what his vision would be should he decide to run and a central plank will be a strong foreign policy.
"The next president of the United States needs to be someone that has a clear view of what's happening in the world, a clear strategic vision of America's role in it, and a clear tactical plan for how to engage America in global affairs. And I think for governors, that's going to be a challenge at least initially, because they don't deal with foreign policy on a daily basis," he said at a January briefing with reporters hosted by The Christian Science Monitor
The issue of Cuba also offers Rubio, 43, the opportunity to highlight both his personal story and his credentials on foreign policy.
"If Rubio rises, it will be on the back of national security and the fact he has potentially one of the most, if not the most, compelling narratives," GOP strategist Ford O'Connell told The Hill
Due to Florida law, which prohibits an individual from running simultaneously for the presidency and the Senate, Rubio will have to make a decision by the May 2016 filing deadline for Senate candidates.
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