Lindsey Graham Tries And Fails To De-Fund New Havana Embassy

by ALICE OLLSTEIN –

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When President Obama announced a negotiated end to the nearly six decade impasse with Cuba, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) fired off a statement saying if he is elected president in 2016, he will reverse the move and shut down the newly reopened embassy.

“I fear Assad, Putin, the Chinese, and terrorists who wish to do us harm take this as yet another sign of continued American weakness,” he said of the normalization of diplomatic relations with the island nation.

Then, this week, Graham attempted to prevent the Havana embassy from opening at all.

As the Senate debated the $49 billion dollar appropriations bill that covers the State Department and U.S. foreign aid to the entire globe, he introduced an amendment to block the modest funding needed to open a U.S. embassy in Havana, Cuba. But the measure died when all Democrats and the majority of Republicans on the Foreign Relations sub-committee refused to support it. Graham has vowed to try again when the full committee looks at the bill, but admits it may be politically impossible with many Republicans — including his presidential opponent Rand Paul (R-KY) — supporting the thaw.

Graham may be as out of line with voters on the Cuba question as he is with his fellow senators. A msnbc/Telemundo/Marist poll this April found that 59 percent of Americans, including 56 percent of Latinos, approved of the U.S.’ diplomatic recognition of Cuba. Even a majority of the notoriously conservative and anti-Castro Cuban-American community has come to support the reconnection.

However, should the attempt to de-fund the embassy fail, both Graham and other Republicans have vowed to block the confirmation of any nominee the President taps to serve as the first ambassador to Cuba since the 1950s.

“The values we stand for — human rights, freedom, and democracy — [are] in retreat and decline,” he lamented when President Obama announced the embassy reopening. Yet Graham has not always held all nations to the same standards of “human rights, freedom, and democracy.” A leaked State Department cable showed he traveled to meet with Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2009, and there praised the strongman as an “important ally in the war on terror” and promised him U.S. military aid and weapons. Two years later, he was at the forefront of the push for regime change.

Now, Graham’s Cuba gambit comes the same week as the first major foreign policy speech of his campaign for president, in which he will lay out his vision for “America’s role in the world.”

 

Reprinted with permission from Think Progress, a branch of The Center for American Progress