Despite initially saying they would use the funding process to block efforts to create a U.S. Embassy in Cuba, it appears Senate Republicans have backtracked on that stance. The effort to create an embassy in Cuba comes after President Obama removed the Caribbean island from a list of state sponsors of terrorism in May.
A bill for $49 billion that funds the State Department and foreign operations recently passed through a Senate Appropriations subcommittee did not address the added embassy. However, some Republicans initially wanted to amend it to block the embassy. One such Republican is presidential hopeful Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) who strongly opposes the embassy.
“On the Senate side, I’m not so sure we have all Republicans where I’m at in terms of not establishing an embassy. I don’t know if the votes are there on our side, quite frankly,” Graham said.
Graham can count another presidential hopeful, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), on his side, but it does appear that others approve the changes. Including another presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.).
The administrations in both countries are welcoming the change however. The Cuban government announced the would welcome a U.S. Embassy in Havana while they open a Cuban Embassy in Washington. The current plan is for both embassies to open their doors on July 20.
Sen. Graham is not giving up though, he plans to attempt to add the blocking amendment when the bill reaches the full committee later this week. If it does not pass, the Senate would also need to confirm any ambassador to Cuba which would be another hurdle for the White House to overcome.
Another issue the U.S. Embassy creation needs to overcome is the current version of the funding bill in the House. This House version does block the creation of an embassy, which is close to the version Graham would like to create.
“It’s just a matter of where the votes are at, and the House has good language, which I support,” Graham said. “So this thing is not over yet.”
The Senate appropriations bill give $49 billion to the State Department for emergency and discretionary funding. The bill is $2.8 billion short of last year and $5 billion below the White House’s request.
The bill does give extra money for programs promoting democracy, it increases aid to Jordan and Israel, and creates new funds for violent regions in Central America.