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Rand Paul on Cuba: Open Trade a Better Way to Fight Communism

Paul said opening up Cuba could be more effective than an embargo. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Rand Paul says President Barack Obama should expect to face thousands of riders on next year's spending bills.  

"I say we put not dozens, not hundreds, but thousands of instructions to the president on how it should be spent," the Kentucky Republican said Thursday. "That's the power of the purse. Now, some have been disappointed we haven't used it so far, but we haven't controlled the Senate, so we haven't been able to do it." Paul's senior colleague from Kentucky, incoming Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, has told CQ Roll Call he plans to dedicate substantial floor time to processing the 12 regular appropriations measures next year. Still, Paul encouraged listeners of local radio station WVHU to have realistic expectations about what Republicans can push through the Senate. Even with a GOP majority, the party will need help from Democrats to overcome filibuster threats.  

"People need to realize [that] while I'm going to try to put every instruction I can in every appropriation bill, ... we still need six Democrats to vote for them," Paul said. "Like everything else, there will be ... trying to find an area of agreement on some of these things."  

Host Tom Roten started the interview with Kentucky's junior senator and potential 2016 presidential contender by asking for his reaction to Obama's announcement about opening up U.S. relations with Cuba, as well as the reaction of Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who sharply criticized the administration's move.  

"We didn't have any love lost for the communists, and when we first opened up trade with China we were thinking it was a bad idea," Paul said. "But you know, over time I've come to believe, and many conservatives have come to believe that trading with China is the best way to actually ultimately defeat communism, and it makes us less likely to fight."  

"The 50-year embargo with Cuba just hasn't worked. I mean, if  the goal was regime change, it sure doesn't seem to be working, and probably it punishes the people more than regime because the regime can blame the embargo for hardship," Paul said, saying that an open trading system could allow Cubans to see the goods produced in a capitalist society.  

"In the end, I think probably opening up Cuba's a good idea," he said.  

"We're looking into exactly what can be done by executive order and what can be done by Congress, and it's my understanding that some of the embargo was done by executive order, so he may be able to undo it by executive order," Paul said, saying some elements of Cuba policy would require legislation to overturn.  

Paul's position in favor of increasing trade with Cuba puts him in a minority among Republicans.  

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