U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, was quick to blast the policy shift toward Cuba announced Wednesday by President Barack Obama.
But the other Kansans – all Republicans – serving on Capitol Hill were largely quiet at first and then voiced concerns Thursday about Democrat Obama’s plan to re-establish diplomatic relations with Cuba.
Republicans eying presidential bids – including Sens. Marco Rubio, Florida, and Ted Cruz, Texas, as well as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush – criticized Obama’s initiative. So did Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio.
Bryan E. Rosner, a northeast Kansan and a Republican, shares their dislike for Obama, but he likes the idea of re-establishing ties.
“I certainly didn’t vote for Obama and don’t agree with anything he does with the exception of restoring relations with Cuba. I’m asking for you to not fight this thing just because Obama is doing it and he is a Democrat,” Rosner posted on U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran’s Facebook page.
“I think that’s why the GOP’s against it,” Rosner told The News in a phone interview. “That’s why nothing gets done in Washington.”
The Kansas Farm Bureau supports free and fair trade, and chief executive officer Terry Holdren sees the plan as a good “opportunity” for wider and easier trade.
“Cuba is an 11-million consumer market, which U.S. farmers and ranchers now have access to,” said Holdren. But banking and third-party trade restrictions limit access.
“The move yesterday certainly makes trade easier,” Holdren said Thursday. “We support normalizing trade relations with Cuba.”
Holdren cited Moran’s previous efforts to lift trade and travel restrictions with Cuba. Moran took a break from that years-long effort when American Alan Gross was being detained in Cuba. Moran welcomed Gross’s release Wednesday but did not issue a statement on Obama’s plan to establish an embassy in Cuba again.
In an interview Thursday with KMAN Radio, Manhattan, Moran said he still wants increased agricultural trade and travel with Cuba, saying that has been one of his “causes” in Congress for almost 15 years.
However, Moran said of Obama, “There has been no consultation with Congress.”
He said he is not at all supportive of the president acting unilaterally, and does not think now is the time to re-establish full diplomatic relations with Cuba.
Take it incrementally, a step at a time, Moran advised the White House.
The News sent requests Thursday morning to the Kansans, apart from Pompeo, who had not issued their opinion of Obama’s plan. Moran and Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Dodge City, did not respond. Neither did Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler/Hutchinson.
Reps. Lynn Jenkins, R-Topeka, and Kevin Yoder, R-Overland Park, shared Pompeo’s objections to the release of convicted spies being held in the U.S., as Gross was released in Cuba. They also were wary about Obama’s friendly overtures to the Communist regime:
Pompeo: “I have little doubt that whatever benefits this policy provides to Cuba will not accrue to the long-suffering Cuban people, but rather will serve to strengthen the dictatorial regime. Whether it’s the Ayatollahs in Iran or the Castros in Cuba, the President seems intent on cozying up with America’s enemies at the expense of our friends and principles.” Jenkins: “President Obama seems to be a lot more concerned about appeasing our enemies, than thinking about the potential long term consequences. In regards to Agriculture exports, there is the possibility for some growth, but Cuba is an extremely small market, and it comes at a hefty price. I have serious concerns about working to normalize relations with what has proved to be a brutal and oppressive communist dictatorship, particularly as the Castro regime could be on its way out.” Yoder: “While I always seek ways to broaden markets for Kansas products, I am further concerned that any economic benefit of the President’s unilateral decision will not reach the Cuban people who have long been oppressed by the Castro regime. Without freedom for the people of Cuba it is not possible for our relations to really be ‘normalized. It is my sincere hope that the President will seek congressional approval for these policy changes and any future related decisions.”