Tom Emmer’s relationship with Cuba and Democrats may come back to bite him in House Speaker’s race
On the attack: NRCC Chairman Tom Emmer of Minnesota is targeting 55 Democratic-held seats, several of which are in Florida.

Tom Emmer
Emmer once buddied up with Barack Obama and other Dems on Cuba issues, a big no-no in South Florida.

In politics, there are always skeletons lurking, waiting to jump out of the closet. 

For U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer, who is running for House Speaker amid chaos on Capitol Hill following the ouster of former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, that skeleton hails from Cuba and parties with the Obamas. 

Already you might be catching the drift — the Florida congressional delegation, overwhelmingly red, isn’t likely to take kindly to this particular revelation. 

Way back in 2015 — admittedly a lifetime ago in political years — Emmer filed the Cuba Trade Act of 2015 that would have lifted the Cuba trade embargo, allowing businesses in the private sector to trade freely with Cuba. 

He introduced it with a Democrat from Tampa, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor. 

Strange bedfellows indeed. But it gets even more strange. 

Emmer joined former President Barack Obama and Sen. Amy Klobuchar on a Cuba trip the next year, the first time a sitting President had visited the island nation since Calvin Coolidge in 1928, according to a press release announcing the trip. 

When introducing the 2015 legislation, which then Speaker John Boehner strongly opposed without significant changes to the Cuban government, Emmer called it “a new and exciting chapter for the U.S.” He went on to say the legislation would “improve our position within the region, giving the U.S. a seat at the table and increased leverage” to support “political transformations.”

This as less than two weeks ago the Miami Herald reported Cuba was re-elected into the United Nations Human Rights Council despite criticism from advocacy groups about the nation’s practice of imprisoning peaceful protesters and dissenters. 

Nikki Haley, a former ambassador to the U.N. and current GOP presidential contender, called the vote “a farce,” an indication of GOP sentiments now. 

And that’s not even to speak of Florida, particularly South Florida, where the memory of horrific human rights violations under a socialist dictatorship remain fresh in the minds of the vast Cuban population, many of whom fled from the Fidel Castro regime. 

Emmer held onto his hope of opening relations with Cuba even as it put him at odds with a President of his own party. In 2017, he openly criticized then-President Donald Trump, a Republican, for reversing course on Obama’s efforts.

“I am extremely disappointed with President Trump’s announcement he is going to ‘roll back’ the progress made in improving our relationship with Cuba,” he said at the time. “Through today’s actions, his Administration claims that he is honoring a campaign promise and fighting for the Cuban people. Yet, by returning to the failed policy of the past 55 years, the Administration moves no closer to helping improve the human rights situation in Cuba and stands to violate the President’s number one campaign promise and constitutional responsibility— to keep the American people and our homeland safe.”

Tell refugees who rushed to the Florida Keys by the hundreds earlier this year about the progress made in Cuba the last half century.

Maybe this isn’t such an emotional and personal issue in South Bend, Indiana. But South Florida Republicans representing the largest Cuban diaspora in the country know this is an issue to constituents in Florida, the state where 64% of Cubans and Cuban Americans in the United States live.

Perhaps that is why U.S. Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart endorsed fellow Floridian Byron Donalds almost immediately after Donalds threw his name in the hat. While he didn’t say so in his endorsement, posted to X and noting that Donalds “is an honorable leader,” he has been a frequent critic of Obama-era policies normalizing relations with Cuba. 

Emmer does, however, have an important endorsement for Speaker, from who would be his immediate predecessor in McCarthy. Emmer is the No. 3 House Republican currently, serving as Majority Whip. And he’s making calls to his GOP colleagues to do what he’s already tapped to do, whip some votes. 

But whip though he may, with Florida’s 28 members of the House led by Díaz-Balart on the delegation, and considering all of the state’s Democrats will undoubtedly continue voting for Hakeem Jeffries, the numbers are there to tank Emmer’s bid before it even really begins. 


Jacob Ogles contributed reporting.

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises Media and is the publisher of, INFLUENCE Magazine, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Previous to his publishing efforts, Peter was a political consultant to dozens of congressional and state campaigns, as well as several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella. Follow Peter on Twitter @PeterSchorschFL.


  • rick whitaker

    October 20, 2023 at 8:14 pm

    i don’t know much about emmer, but the issue you say may hold him back is one that i would praise him for. when trump pulled the plug on easing up on cuba, i thought that was bad. if cuba is not included in anything, they will have less opportunity to change. the gop lives in the past where they have influence and make money. change is good.

  • My Take

    October 20, 2023 at 9:01 pm

    Do the crazier Cuban exile groups still exist?
    ALpha66 ? CANF ?

  • PeterH

    October 21, 2023 at 12:26 am

    One colorful feature of Tom Emmer‘s past that I found most interesting is his arrest and record for driving while intoxicated and subsequently fighting to pass legislation to lessen the legal burden for drunk drivers!
    Not very honorable!

    • Alexandra Zakhvatayev

      October 22, 2023 at 12:53 pm

      Emmer was young & dumb no doubt – I’m sure he got help to fix his problems way back when.

      Do you think Donalds got help after being convicted with “bribery in connection with a scheme to defraud a bank”? One would hope so, after climbing that high moral ground to the Oversight committee, where examining fraud & abuse is specialty.

      In the American justice system that pardoned those grievances, one might be careful not to take this forgiveness for granted, and perhaps afford others the grace that was afforded to them.

  • PeterH

    October 21, 2023 at 8:49 am

    Donald Trump will not support Tom Emmer for Speaker! When the leader of the Klown Kar speaks ….. his devotees in Congress listen.

  • Alexandra Zakhvatayev

    October 22, 2023 at 8:31 am

    Nice angle, Pete, But you’re playing with fire.

    You see, Diaz Balart – as top foreign ops appropriator – aimed to send $30 million to the Cuban government for FY24 alone.
    “The bill fully funds democracy assistance accounts in support of freedom and human rights where they are most threatened the timing by the way of today’s markup is really significant. Yesterday folks marked a two-year anniversary the beginning of the historic Uprising Uprising by the people of Cuba demanding one thing freedom in recognition of this ongoing pursuit of Freedom the blue this bill includes 30 million dollars for democracy programs in Cuba and it also restores critical funding for the office of Cuba Broadcasting.”

    So to insinuate that Diaz-Balart endorsed Donalds over Emmer based on misaligned cuban relations stance – just doesn’t add up. Let’s take a moment to unpack “misalignment on foreign relations” – Just take a look at their votes on Ukraine, Donalds voted down nearly all foreign aid packages to Ukraine – while Diaz-Balart passed every single one, and so did Emmer.

    It’s ironic because Cuban people can understand quite possibly better than anyone what Ukrainians face. Note that in June 2023, Cuba and Russia launched negotiations for military cooperation. And later this summer, we learned of Russia’s human trafficking rings in Cuba to fight Russia.

    What would Cuban Americans say if we elect a speaker who is opposed to helping our fellow ally- Ukraine – defeat their common enemy of the Cuban people?

    I cannot imagine why Diaz-Balart endorsed Donalds – but to say that it’s because Donalds is more of a champion of Cuban relations than Emmer is laughable.

    Let’s face it, Byron Donalds foreign policy is absolutely backwards, and will get us into big trouble – maybe even another Cuban missile crisis – if this disunctional far right member was able to actually succeed in the foreign policy he pursues.

    NO! to MY VERY OWN Congressman – Byron Donalds – as House spox >>>>

    • Alexandra Zakhvatayev

      October 22, 2023 at 12:44 pm

      typo – “And later this summer, we learned of Russia’s human trafficking rings in Cuba to fight UKRAINE” (not Russia)

      • My Take

        October 22, 2023 at 6:54 pm

        I thought it was just missing a “for.”

        • Alexandra Zakhvatayev

          October 23, 2023 at 6:27 pm

          incorrect. the traffickers in cuba are from russia. look it up

          and oh btw – you can factor in the chinese spy base in Cuba too

          • alexandra zakhvatayev

            October 23, 2023 at 6:28 pm

            ps don’t be a pussy say your name

  • Ruth Trick

    October 22, 2023 at 4:27 pm

    Tom Emmer has shown he can be an adult in the room. The fact that he was able to work with the democrats speaks in his favor. Also, the fact that Trump doesn’t endorse him makes him the man for the job in my estimation!

  • Henry DelForn

    October 22, 2023 at 5:52 pm

    Hey Peter, would call it a “big no-no” to intentionally keep Michelle and Ella in hunger for most of their lives and prohibited them access to dollars? or would you call it a “big abuse of human rights” and fight like hell to change your gov? Try to see the other side dude! Checkout State Dept Mallory 1960 (“bring about hunger”) and the 1963 Cuban Assets Control Regulations, respectively. When is South Florida going to get it? When is our nation gonna get it? We’re the bad guys … not them…and we find all sorts of clever ways to twist and lie to the nation about it. Listen here: inhumane foreign policy is a cancer in our Declaration of Independence, our Constitution, and our Bill of Rights. None of our founders would have ever kept a neighboring population in hunger for more than 60 years. Read the federalist papers to find out the true soul of this nation, it is NOT the hateful mongers of South Florida. It’s an unbearable sin. Say nothing of the violations to US citizen rights codified in embargo laws. You guys don’t give a damn, do you? Plus you can’t criticize what you don’t want to see. It’s a business, it’s job security, it’s disgusting.

  • My Take

    October 22, 2023 at 7:12 pm

    Exiled Cuban “Big Sugar” just about destroyed the northern Everglades.

  • Kevin L

    October 23, 2023 at 8:53 am


    • rick whitaker

      October 24, 2023 at 6:37 am

      spread the word and vote dem up and down

Comments are closed.


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