House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters today that when she visited Cuba in February officials were under the impression that President Obama can lift the congressional embargo.
“I think that the president made the right decision to remove Cuba from the terrorist — it changes its name all the time — terrorist countries of concern; rogue nation — what — whatever that list is, I think he made the right decision to take Cuba off of that list because they are not engaged in the activities that would warrant them being on it,” Pelosi said at a wide-ranging press conference.
Congress had 45 days from the point of Obama’s decision to remove Cuba from the list to oppose the move; that deadline is May 29.
“I don’t see anything that could be accomplished by May 29th to overturn the president’s decision in that regard,” Pelosi said.
“In terms of the — I almost said blockade. Because when we were in Cuba, they kept calling it a blockade. That’s — it’s not a blockade. It’s a — it’s an embargo. A blockade is different. But they kept calling it that,” she continued. “There was some sentiment by some of the leaders that we met with in Cuba that the president had the authority to lift the embargo. He does not. That is an act of Congress that requires an act of Congress.”
“I have not myself been involved in any of the activities to lift the embargo, but I would certainly be very supportive of them as they — as they materialize, because it is really important for us to lift it.”
A fourth round of talks between State Department and Cuban officials resumed today in Havana.
“I hope, though, on the part of Cuba, that it’s not a requirement to normalizing relations with — with the United States,” Pelosi said of the embargo. “It’s something that normalizing relations could lead to, lifting the embargo. But it’s a relic that has not been useful, and has certainly — it’s time for the embargo to go.”
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who got the press room after Pelosi’s news conference, said it’s not time to remove the embargo.
“And from what I’ve watched over the last two or three months, when it comes to Cuba, the administration keeps giving and giving and giving. But the Castro brothers are giving — are doing nothing,” Boehner said.
“And when you look at their record of human rights violations and you look at how they’ve run their economy into the ground, it’s time for them to come forward. There are conversations in the House about what we can do to stop the president’s actions.”
Boehner said he had a meeting this week “with a group of members who were interested in stopping this progression toward normal relations with Cuba, until such time as they begin to make serious changes in terms of the way they run their country.”