Advertisement
  1. Archive

CUBA DEAL IGNITES SENATORS' WAR OF WORDS

Published Dec. 20, 2014
Updated Dec. 22, 2014

Sen. Marco Rubio hit first.

"He has no idea what he's talking about."

The Florida Republican was on Fox News Thursday night reacting to Sen. Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican and potential 2016 presidential rival to Rubio, who supported President Barack Obama's move to restore relations with Cuba.

Friday, Paul hit back, launching a string of rebuttals and jeers on Twitter.

"Hey @marcorubio if the embargo doesn't hurt Cuba, why do you want to keep it?"

"Senator @marcorubio is acting like an isolationist who wants to retreat to our borders and perhaps build a moat. I reject this isolationism."

"The United States trades and engages with other communist nations, such as China and Vietnam. So @marcorubio why not Cuba?"

Paul filled out those remarks on Facebook, citing polling showing public support for ending the trade embargo, including among the younger generation of Cuban-Americans in South Florida. Not long after, Time posted an op-ed from Paul on the subject. Rubio had previously blasted the Cuba deal in the Wall Street Journal.

Rubio did not respond Friday but he'll have a full plate Sunday. He is set to appear on Face the Nation, Meet the Press, This Week, Telemundo and Univision.

Amid the presidential titillation was the beginning of a genuine political debate over Obama's latest unilateral action. Rubio, who is Cuban-American, has raced to the front of the opposition, blanketing TV news shows and furiously arguing Obama gave up the leverage of an embargo for no promise of advanced freedoms in Cuba.

Many other Republicans have adopted Rubio's view but not Paul, who said Thursday that opening up trade is "probably a good idea." The schism also reflected different world views that could be tested in the presidential election. Rubio has called for an aggressive posture abroad; Libertarian Paul wants the United States to engage less, though he knocked Rubio's views on Cuba as isolationist.

Rubio has vowed to continue the fight on Capitol Hill, using his post on the Foreign Relations Committee to block funding for an embassy and confirmation of an ambassador. The White House questioned whether there would be a funding issue as the United States already has an Interests Section in Cuba.

Asked during a news conference whether he would engage Republicans, Obama said, "I will certainly weigh in. Ultimately we need to pull down the embargo."

The Rubio-Paul fight capped a momentous week in Florida politics, which began with former Gov. Jeb Bush taking a big step toward running for president in 2016 followed by the bombshell news about Cuba.