Miami Republican Representative Mario Diaz-Balart is reportedly using today’s vote on the American Health Care Act as an opportunity to get assurances from officials in the Trump administration that President Trump will keep his pledge to overturn former President Barack Obama’s Cuba policy, The New York Times reported on Wednesday.
Diaz-Balart’s wants to overturn Obama’s Cuba rapprochement efforts and has even reportedly drafted an outline of a new policy for the administration.
The congressman gave the tie-breaking vote that passed the healthcare bill in the Budget Committee last week, but The Times reports that he has not engaged in any serious discussion about voting “Yes” for Trumpcare in exchange for a new Cuba policy.
Despite his vote last week, he told news sources that he was still not sure about the bill, primarily because of concerns about coverage and costs for senior citizens. He has, however, reportedly brought up Cuba whenever he’s in the White House. Sources say he has not spoken to Trump, but he wouldn’t confirm or deny if he has spoken to Vice President Pence, who he has close ties with.
The implication that the Diaz-Balart or the Trump administration would even consider using U.S.-Cuba relations to pass Trumpcare has prompted criticism from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and advocates of the renewed relations.
“Mr. Diaz-Balart is playing politics with his constituents’ healthcare in order to settle a family feud,” said James Williams, the president of Engage Cuba. “Our U.S.-Cuba policy should be guided by what’s in the best interests of the American and Cuban people, not one congressman’s personal agenda.”
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee echoed Williams’ sentiments by pointing out that by supporting the healthcare bill, Diaz-Balart would “cost tens of thousands of his own constituents access to healthcare, blow the roof off of others’ premiums, and slap an age tax on older South Floridians.”
Trump did tweet in November saying he was prepared to “terminate” Obama’s agreements with Cuba if it didn’t “make a better deal,” but his administration has been silent on the issue. The Miami Herald reports that the lack of commitment is in part because the president has not yet appointed deputies in the National Security Council and State Department to handle affairs in the Western Hemisphere.
Diaz-Balart has purportedly written a memo titled “A Good Deal that Upholds the Law and Protects National Security,” outlining a possible approach for Trump in Cuba, which he passed around in the White House.
The memo, which doesn’t name him as the author, seeks to undo Obama’s rapprochement and give Cuba three months to meet the criteria set in the Helms-Burton Act of 1996 by Congress, which includes multiparty elections, making “demonstrable progress” in returning or compensating property confiscated from U.S. citizens, and respecting civil and political rights.
If Cuba fails to meet the criteria, then it will be returned to the list of state sponsors of terrorism, allowing Americans to file lawsuits against confiscated property in Cuba, and Obama’s rapprochement efforts will be eliminated.