Updated 1:41 p.m. | Defying Speaker John A. Boehner, President Barack Obama announced plans Wednesday to normalize relations with Cuba and reopen the U.S. embassy in Havana. "A year ago, it might have seemed impossible that the United States would once again be raising our flag, the Stars and Stripes, over an embassy in Havana," Obama said. "This is what change looks like."
Secretary of State John Kerry is slated to lift the flag over the U.S.'s Cuba embassy later this summer. The embassy is expected to be up and running before the Sept. 30 end of the fiscal year. And that's important because House Republicans are trying to block funding for an embassy in next year's appropriations bills.
Speaking in the Rose Garden, Obama also called again on Congress to lift the trade embargo with Cuba.
"It hasn't worked for 50 years," Obama said.
Boehner, however, is having none of it.
“The Obama administration is handing the Castros a lifetime dream of legitimacy without getting a thing for the Cuban people being oppressed by this brutal communist dictatorship," the Ohio Republican said in a statement. As I’ve said before, relations with the Castro regime should not be revisited, let alone normalized, until Cubans enjoy freedom – and not one second sooner.”
Boehner has previously vowed to keep in place the statutory sanctions on Cuba.
Obama also will have a very hard time confirming an ambassador, with Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., vowing to do everything he can to block confirmation. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said the administration would nonetheless hope for prompt approval of a nominee.
“I’m confident that would be a venue for a robust debate about how the policy changes that the president announced back in December aren’t just clearly in the best interest of the American people, they’re clearly in the best interest of the Cuban people," Earnest said, per a pool report.
“For obvious reasons it would be our strong preference that once an ambassador has been nominated, for that individual to be treated fairly by the United States Senate and confirmed in bipartisan fashion,” he said.
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