Cuba’s removal from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list is already a fact: the parliamentarian just notified Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and a group of other 35 representatives who were trying to advance a bill to block President Obama’s decision that that is not legally possible.
Interviewed by Foreign Policy on Wednesday, Ros-Lehtinen said that the confusion over Congress’ authority to veto Obama’s decision came from a misunderstanding of the Helms-Burton Act, a federal law passed in 1996 that strengthened the U.S. embargo of Cuba.
Ros-Lehtinen said that when they wrote the bill in the 1990s, the state sponsor of terrorism wasn’t talked about much, and was not included in the legislation that established that the embargo could only be lifted by an act of Congress.
When Obama announced his decision to remove Cuba from the list on April 14, many thought that Congress would have 45 days to enact a joint resolution to prohibit the rescission, and that, in that case, the president could veto the resolution.
A congressional aide told FP that that process would have meant weeks of markups and hearings in the House and Senate dedicated to bashing Obama’s Cuba policy.
Ros-Lehtinen and the co-sponsors of the draft legislation were planning on introducing it this week, until they found that Congress cannot legally prevent the executive branch from taking Cuba off the list.
Ros-Lehtinen said that although the delisting cannot be undone, she and the other representatives would introduce legislation in the coming weeks to slow down Obama’s plans and change of policy towards Cuba.