McConnell: Senate Unlikely to Confirm Ambassador to Cuba

Thursday, July 2, 2015
From AP:

Majority leader McConnell doubts Senate will confirm US ambassador to Cuba, in rebuff to Obama

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday that his chamber is unlikely to approve an American ambassador to Cuba, dishing out a quick rebuff to President Barack Obama and his drive to normalize relations with the U.S. neighbor and longtime Cold War foe.

The Kentucky Republican also suggested that the GOP — which controls Congress — would fight Obama administration efforts to fully lift trade and travel restrictions that have limited American commerce and tourism with the communist-led island nation. McConnell said the country was led by "a thuggish regime."

The comments by McConnell came a day after Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro announced that the two nations will open embassies in Havana and Washington July 20 and resume diplomatic relations severed in 1961, the year Obama was born.

McConnell's remarks underscored that despite a push to ease the curbs by U.S. business and agriculture interests and some GOP lawmakers, Republican leaders remain sympathetic to the party's more conservative, anti-Castro voices. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and several contenders for the GOP's 2016 presidential nomination criticized Obama's moves shortly after they were announced Wednesday.

"You would think that the normalization of relations with Cuba would be accompanied by some modification of their behavior," McConnell said Thursday at Commerce Lexington, the chamber of commerce for Lexington, Kentucky. Instead, he called the country "a police state" and "a haven for criminals" wanted in the U.S.

"I don't see any evidence at all that they are going to change their behavior. So I doubt if we'll confirm an ambassador, they probably don't need one," McConnell said.

He added, "Some of their restrictions on Cuba would require legislation to lift, and we're going to resist that."