As many Republicans blasted President Obama for his decision to thaw diplomatic relations with Cuba, a few Republicans are instead saying they support the idea of ending an embargo with the Castro-led regime.
“I’ve always said, if somebody is going to limit my travel it should be a communist, not my own government here,” Sen. Jeff Flake said in a news conference on Wednesday after traveling to Cuba to participate in bringing home Alan Gross, an American prisoner held by the Castro regime for five years.
Flake’s sentiment on travel was echoed by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), a favorite of conservatives.
“I gotta tell you, it bothers me, as an American, I should be able to travel anywhere I want to in the world,” Chaffetz said on KSL radio’s Doug Wright Show, calling it a “freedom issue.”
“It is the only place on the planet that the United States government prohibits Americans from going to,” Chaffetz said. “And that seems ridiculous.”
But Flake’s support of the Gross mission wasn’t simply an attempt at bipartisanship.
During his news conference, the Arizona senator strongly endorsed Obama’s actions to restore American travel to Cuba and the idea of funding a U.S. embassy there.
While Marco Rubio and other senators floated the idea of blocking funding for an embassy in Cuba, Flake called the idea “counterproductive” and denied that Obama’s actions were a concession to the Castros.
“That is simply wrong,” he said. “The policy that we’ve had in place for the past 50 years has done more in my view – and many’s view – to keep the Castro regimes in power than anything we could have done.”
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest recognized Flake’s support as an example of bipartisan support for the Cuba embargo being lifted.
“I think it is a common-sense position that I think is also strongly supported by the vast majority of the American public,” Earnest told reporters.
Flake signaled optimism that a congressional vote to end the Cuban embargo might have a better chance in Congress.
“We really haven’t had a test vote on Cuba for a while,” Flake said, noting that many new Senators might appear open to the idea.
“My sense is that most of my colleagues think we’re long past due,” he said.