Obama Defends Cuba Policy with Veto Threat!

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First, let’s take a moment to exhale…

Yesterday, President Obama and his staff in the White House released a Statement of Administration Policy (SAP) that provided Congress with the Executive Office’s views on H.R. 2434, the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act, 2012. This is the appropriations bill that was approved by the House Appropriations Committee on June 23rd, which included Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart’s (R-FL-21) amendment that intends to restrict Cuban-American family travel and remittances to Cuba.

In the SAP, the White House says: “The Administration strongly opposes a number of provisions in this bill. If the President is presented with a bill that undermines either the Affordable Care Act of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protections Act through funding limits or other restrictions, or reverses current policies on Cuba, his senior advisors would recommend a veto.”

As our friends at the Havana Note explain, “It is customary for an administration to send to Congress a Statement of Administration Policy (SAP) after committee consideration and before a floor vote, with warnings over provisions the administration wants to see removed.  How do you ensure a provision’s removal?  Threaten to veto the bill over it.  No committee chairman wants to see his bill go down over just one provision in it, so the tactic usually works.”

Although we may argue that it’s equally important, for our issue of travel to Cuba to be mentioned in the same sentence as hot-button items like, health care and Wall Street reform, this SAP signifies a monumental step for the White House.  U.S. policy towards Cuba has routinely been dubbed as a low-priority issue by previous Administrations and Congress. But since Obama delivered upon his campaign promise to allow unrestricted family travel to Cuba in 2009, this move by Diaz-Balart is interpreted as a challenge to the White House’s Cuba policy.

Over 600 of YOU from Miami responded to an ad placed in El Nuevo Herald that encouraged Cuban Americans to send letters to the President expressing concerns for maintaining the current policy on family travel to Cuba. Your voices were heard.

This SAP explicitly defends Obama’s forward-looking policy towards Cuba, and that is the jaw-dropper here.  If Congress was unsure about how the President felt about revisions to his policy on family travel to Cuba, this statement says it all, “if it’s there, expect a veto.”

The fight against this bill is not yet over, but with the big boss giving fair warning, this amendment is one step closer to being thrown out.