TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts is skeptical of President Barack Obama’s decision to restore diplomatic ties with Cuba, labelling it as nothing more than a shift in public relations.
The Republican senator said the Democratic president should consult Congress on changing U.S. policy and questioned whether Obama can unilaterally normalize relations with communist Cuba through executive action.
“I don’t know how he can do that,” Roberts said during an Associated Press interview Sunday. “He’s got to come to the Congress with things like this or it just poisons the well.”
Roberts’ skepticism of Obama’s actions contrasted sharply with the support offered by Kansas’ other Republican senator, Jerry Moran, a longtime supporter of lifting the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba as a potential boost to agriculture. Roberts is expected to become Agriculture Committee chairman when the GOP takes control of the Senate in January.
Farm groups and businesses are backing the shift in policy, seeing the potential for increased trade. While agricultural commodities such as wheat are exempt, Moran said last week in an AP interview that rules imposed by the U.S. Treasury Department under former GOP President George W. Bush are burdensome enough to block trade. Moran wants the rules rolled back.
Moran said in an AP interview last week that when people become market-oriented, seeking consumer goods, they demand personal freedoms as well.
But Roberts said Sunday: “That promise has always gone unfulfilled, so I don’t what we’re gaining from this, except a public relations change.”
Roberts said he also doesn’t believe Cuban President Raul Castro or former dictator Fidel Castro respect individual freedoms. Fidel Castro is Raul Castro’s older brother and ceded power to him in 2006 after ruling the island nation since 1959.
“They haven’t changed at all with regards to individual freedoms, and I thought our country was supposed to stand for that,” Roberts said.
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