Sources: Florida Rep. Leveraged Health Care Vote To Try To Get Concessions On Cuba Policy

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Alex Pfeiffer White House Correspondent
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Republican Florida Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart leveraged his vote on the recent Obamacare repeal legislation in an effort to gain concessions from President Trump on Cuban policy, according to The Daily Caller’s sources.

Two sources involved directly in Cuban policymaking told TheDC about Diaz-Balart’s “horse-trading.” One of the sources, a top Republican Miami donor who favors open relations with Cuba, told TheDC he heard about the negotiation directly from a congressional official. Rep. Diaz-Balart ended up voting for the American Health Care Act.

The Florida legislator denied to TheDC Tuesday that he received assurances on Cuban policy from the White House, calling the claim “factually incorrect.” The congressman, however, added, “That being said, I will reiterate that I will never waste an opportunity to fight for the interests of our community and our country.”

“It is my duty to advocate for the issues that are important to my constituents, and I will not apologize for using every available avenue to effectively resolve them,” Diaz-Balart said in a statement to TheDC. “I am grateful that, unlike the previous administration, senior members of the current administration are responsive and willing to work with Members of Congress.”

Diaz-Balart wrote in a 2015 op-ed for Time Magazine that Obama’s policy toward Cuba appeases a brutal dictatorship.

TheDC reported Monday that President Trump is set to announce a rollback of Cuban policies enacted by President Obama. The former president loosened travel and business restrictions, ended the “wet foot, dry foot” policy that gave Cuban illegal immigrants a path to legal status and re-established diplomatic relations with Cuba.

Trump is likely to introduce new regulations regarding travel to the island nation and doing business with institutions controlled by Cuba’s military, according to John Kavulich of the nonpartisan US – Cuba Trade and Economic Council.

Reuters confirmed much of this in an article Tuesday, in which the newswire reported the White House is debating how far to go in its rollback. The Reuters report said that it is unlikely that the president will rescind Obama’s re-opening of diplomatic relations with the island nation.

President Trump said in 2015 that the “concept of opening with Cuba is fine,” but has since sided with Cuban policy hardliner Sen. Marco Rubio. The top Miami Republican donor told TheDC that rolling back Obama’s actions on Cuba would be making a decision due to domestic policy concerns instead of a focus on national security.

He said that while Trump lost in Miami-Dade County by double-digits, a hard-line Cuba policy guarantees a crowd of Cubans in “Make America Great Again” hats.