Rivera takes losses on Cuba measures
Rep. David Rivera (R-FL), under the shadow of a federal probe and facing re-election in a district that now has more Democrats than ever, is urging passage of legislation which would bar companies that trade with Cuba from winning Pentagon contracts.
But that wish is going up in smoke as Congress races to finish work on other priorities.
Rivera’s amendment, included in the House defense authorization bill, would punish companies doing business with the four countries on the State Department list of state sponsors of terrorism: Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria.
The legislation’s main target is Repsol SA, the Spanish energy giant exploring for oil in Cuba’s Gulf of Mexico waters; it also has $30 million in Pentagon contracts. After drilling a couple of dry wells, Repsol announced it will leave Cuba .
But no matter. Rivera hopes for success on anti-Cuba legislation to excite exiles whose votes he need to keep his seat in Congress.
Sen. Joe Lieberman, a Connecticut independent and senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, says Rivera’s legislation is doomed. A final defense authorization bill has not been negotiated between the Senate and the House.
But if that final bill contains Rivera’s provision, Lieberman said it would be filibustered by any one of several Senate Democrats; the GOP would need at least 60 votes to break it.
“I would support it, but my guess is, Senate opposition to it is so strong I don’t think you can get 60 votes to support it,” he said.
A Democratic aide on the Senate Armed Services Committee said Rivera’s measure would be “brushed aside” pretty quickly as the House and Senate focus on bigger concerns, such as how much money to cut from the Pentagon’s budget and which weapons systems to protect from those cuts.
“It’s silly to think anyone would spend time on something that would make the Pentagon’s job harder,” he said.
Rivera’s office did not respond to requests for comment.
There’s some hope Congress will approve a final defense authorization bill when lawmakers return from their summer break in September. But most analysts say a final bill won’t be considered until the lame duck session of Congress convenes after the Nov. 6 elections.
That would allow Rivera to campaign on his amendment right up until Election Day.
Rivera may also stump on two other Cuba-related bills he’s introduced that also aren’t expected to go anywhere this Congress.
One would prohibit the federal government from giving medical aid or cash to any Cuban immigrant who returns to Cuba to visit family. Another would require immigrants to remain in the United States for five years, instead of one, to earn permanent residency status.
Rivera will face the winner of an Aug. 14 Democratic primary, most likely Joe García or Gloria Romero Roses.
That race might be tough, though. Rivera has been dogged by an ethics investigation since his days in the Florida House, and his newly redrawn congressional district is now home to 50,000 liberal-leaning voters in Monroe County, which includes Key West.
Don't miss out
Become a Digital Subscriber and continue to access all the exclusive and insightful reporting you'll only find in Cuba News.Subscribe Now - Get 30 days Free