Granted this is from Early March. I guess most of the news media don't think it was news.
Separation of powers: is the Obama administration pulling a Bushie?
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
The Obama administration helped secure the passage of the $400 billion omnibus bill (which the president will sign today,) in a most creative way: by promising not to enforce parts of it. From the Miami Herald today:
Facing strong opposition from lawmakers with large Cuban-American constituencies, the Obama administration pledged -- in writing -- that changes to U.S.-Cuba policy tucked into the giant 2009 spending bill will have no teeth.
The promise worked: Lawmakers Tuesday night approved the $410 billion spending bill, which included the controversial provisions that make travel and trade to Cuba easier by cutting off the funding for enforcement of restrictions.
It cleared the Senate by a voice vote, after senators voted 62 to 35 to end debate.
In a quest to secure two of the votes from senators who had vowed to block the entire budget bill, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner assured Democratic Sens. Bill Nelson of Florida and Bob Menendez of New Jersey that the government would interpret the new law so strictly that it will be ineffective.
What? Can he do that? A newly balsy Congress (with Bush and his spy gear safely out of town,) says no:
Geithner's letter to the two senators persuaded them to change their votes and approve the spending package. Rep. JosÃ© E. Serrano, the New York Democrat who wrote the Cuba amendments in the bill, warned that the law is not subject to ''creative interpretation'' and vowed ``a showdown.''
''The Treasury Department is going to try [to find loopholes], and the [House] appropriations committee will have to remind them who Congress is,'' Serrano told The Miami Herald. ``Treasury will be in violation of the law. There will be a showdown. The bigger issue will not be Congressman Serrano. It will be that they are behaving just like the Bush administration did.''
Technically speaking ... uh ... yeah.
The budget bill, which already passed the House, creates a general travel license for Americans who want to travel to Cuba to cut agricultural and medical sales deals with the communist government. It also lets Cuba pay for goods on arrival -- instead of before the products leave U.S. ports -- and removes funding for enforcement of family travel restrictions enacted by former President George W. Bush.
Geithner wrote that the agricultural travel license would be limited to ''only a narrow class of businesses,'' which would have to report back on their trips. By law, he said, Cuba would still have to pay up front.
Left intact in the bill, which expires in October, is a measure that suspends enforcement of rules that say Cuban Americans can only visit immediate relatives once every three years. Travel to the island would still be illegal, but the department wouldn't be allowed to spend money trying to catch anyone doing it.
This strikes me as no way to run the executive branch, at least not if you care about the separation of powers. If the administration opposes the Cuba provisions in the bill, President Obama ought to veto it. Otherwise, pandering to the Castro derangement syndrome that exists in part of our Congress just strikes me as wrong. Either sign the bill, and enforce it, or veto it. Doesn't seem to be much ambiguity there.
The Herald has Geithner's letters to the Senators (Nelson letter here).
Meanwhile, the view from Steve Clemons' room in Miami, where he's hanging out this week was pretty good. And his findings not all that surprising:
I have been discussing US-Cuba relations with quite a number of Cuban-Americans who live here. I have been telling them about the work that Senator Richard Lugar and his Latin America senior policy advisor Carl Meacham have recently done.
A couple of big surprises. Most want the embargo to end and are indifferent to the political issues that have kept a failed embargo in place for so long.
Secondly, many want to be entrepreneurs in a restarted US-Cuba relationship.
The other nice surprise is that when I put the issue of a relaxation of travel for Cuban-Americans to move back and forth from the US to Cuba, about half of them have the same reaction I do. Why should we create "categories of Americans"? They think we should not be excluding other Americans when legislating about relaxation of travel.
So why is Team Obama still pandering to the Cuba lobby?
Chicago Sun-Times :: ::