Republicans say they will not mount a challenge to President Barack Obama’s plan to remove Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism.
South Florida Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen met with congressional colleagues last week to map strategy to prevent the de-listing and had planned to introduce a bill this week. On Thursday, she changed course.
“A joint resolution to repeal President Obama’s de-listing of Cuba from the state sponsor of terrorism list would not have the far-ranging implications that many had assumed it would,” she said.
Legally, Ros-Lehtinen said, Congress can’t prevent the White House from taking Cuba off the list because not all the statutes that govern designation of a country as a state sponsor of terrorism provide a way for Congress to block a de-listing.
“Of the three statutes that authorize the designation of Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism, the Arms Control Export Act contains the legislative mechanism for Congress to block a delisting,” Ros-Lehtinen said, but neither the Export Administration Act nor the Foreign Assistance Act have such mechanisms.
Ros-Lehtinen said that 35 co-sponsors had signed on to draft legislation before the decision was made not to go forward with it.
“Instead, we are working to ensure that any legislation passed through Congress that relates to Cuba is substantive and will have significant legal effect,” she said.
The congresswoman said that she and her colleagues plan to file “broader legislation regarding Cuba that will help ensure that U.S. national security is protected and that our nation continues to advocate for human rights on the island.”
Obama sent a report to Congress on April 14 saying he planned to take Cuba off the list because it had provided no support for international terrorism during the past six months and that the Cuban government had given assurances that it wouldn’t support acts of international terrorism in the future.
Cuba was placed on the list in 1982 because of its effort to promote armed revolution in Latin America. Cuban officials have always contended that Cuba never should have been put on the list.
By law, the president was required to inform Congress 45 days before his directive went into effect. Now, with no challenges, Cuba is expected to be removed from the list in late May.
As part of the White House’s new Cuba policy announced Dec. 17, the United States and Cuba are negotiating to open embassies and reestablish diplomatic ties. The Republican decision avoids protracted wrangling over the terrorism issue in Congress.
But several other Cuba-related bills have been introduced, including one that ties improvement in Cuba’s human rights record to any further removal of U.S. sanctions against the island and another by farm-state senators that would lift the ban on private banks and companies offering credit for agricultural exports to Cuba.
Because many of the measures that would sanction Cuba are codified in other laws, Ros-Lehtinen said “removing Cuba from the state sponsor of terrorism list does not truly lift significant sanctions.”
Washington attorney Stephen F. Propst said that Cuba’s potential removal from the terror list is an important step in the U.S.-Cuba normalization process and has symbolic significance, but it will have limited immediate impact on economic activity between the United States and Cuba.