Cuban Americans in Florida call for Sunshine State ‘veto’ of Tom Emmer’s Speaker bid
Tom Emmer and other lawmakers on a state visit to Cuba. Photo via Cuba Minrex.

Republican leaders in Florida openly criticize the Majority Whip's past interactions with the communist regime.

As U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer emerges as a leading prospect for House Speaker, Florida’s Cuban American community voices its increasing concern.

“He is probably one of the most sympathetic Republicans in Congress toward the regime in Cuba and for normalizing relations,” said Christian Cámara, president of Chamber Consultants.

Almost immediately after Emmer emerged as a candidate to lead the House, Florida political observers wondered if his history supporting trade with Cuba would be disqualifying for Florida representatives.

During former President Barack Obama’s administration, Emmer provided an air of bipartisanship to efforts to open diplomacy with the communist nation 90 miles off Florida’s shore. In 2015, he filed legislation, the Cuba Trade Act, which would have lifted the Cuban embargo.

But for many in South Florida’s Cuban American community, the worst sin for Emmer came when he traveled to the island nation. He posed for photographs with representatives of the communist government in the Foreign Ministry.

“All that does is legitimize an unelected regime,” Cámara said.

As recently as 2018, Emmer issued statements encouraging the opening of relations with Cuba. “While transitions take time, if Congress is serious about repairing American-Cuban ties and improving the well-being of the Cuban people, we must take action to reset relations and ensure the next 60 years are not filled with the same outdated, unproductive and shortsighted rhetoric and policies of generations past,” he said after the election of current Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel.

Within the house, there’s an opposition file being passed among members on the Majority Whip’s moderate views in the past, including his positions on Cuba, according to The Washington Post.

Florida Politics emailed Emmer’s office about whether his positions have changed in recent years. He has not responded.

It’s these stances that frustrate Miami-Dade County Commissioner Kevin Cabrera.

“He would appear to have some sort of sympathy, that he’s on the side of opening relations with Cuba,” Cabrera said, “but as we know, the only thing that does is further enrich that regime.”

Jorge Bonilla, a Florida political consultant of Puerto Rican descent working in South Florida, posted on social media that an Emmer Speakership would insult many Republican voters in Florida’s Cuban American community.

“Tom Emmer’s support for ending the Cuban Embargo should’ve disqualified him from any leadership position within the GOP conference, let alone Speaker of a GOP-led House,” Bonilla posted on X.

Cámara said in some ways, it speaks beyond the moral outrage of supporting Cuba’s communist government. Regardless of potential political differences about embargo philosophy, Cuban Americans are a famously Republican demographic.

“Cuban Americans are the most steadfast, reliable voting we have for the party,” he said. “For the national party to pick one of its leaders, the titular head of the party as we don’t have the presidency and don’t have the Senate, for it to be a guy who has been to Cuba and advocated for normalization with Cuba, that’s a slap in the face.”

Moreover, Florida’s congressional delegation has 20 Republican members. Other candidates for Speaker have seen their candidacies undone by that many members in opposition.

Notably, a bulk of Republicans in Florida have rallied around U.S. Rep. Byron Donalds, a Naples Republican running for Speaker. He holds a hard line on Cuba, like most Florida Republicans.

But Donalds and Emmer are two of nine candidates seeking the Speaker’s gavel, hoping the entire GOP conference will support them on the floor.

But if a handful of votes ousted McCarthy and undid U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan’s candidacy, Cámara suggested Florida should wield the power to veto Emmer.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].


  • tom palmer

    October 24, 2023 at 8:28 am

    The embargo probably hurts regular Cubans more than the government, but it gives the government a convenient excuse for the effects of its own economic mismanagement on the Cuban economy. There are other oddities, such as the lack of regular postal service between the U.S. and Cuba. The travel restrictions are un-American and makes us look bad, especially when it never applied to other countries with authoritarian regimes.

  • rick whitaker

    October 24, 2023 at 10:27 am

    just how long are cuban americans going to be held back by hate. if you love america and hate cuba, then open the door and let the cubans experience our great country. then they will demand more from their country. does hate prevent them from seeing the solution. the american cubans are not afraid of business competition from cuban visitors are they? i’m not cuban, but i do know how hate can make you do the wrong thing.

  • Earl Pitts "Florida's BIG VOICE on The Right" American

    October 24, 2023 at 10:29 am

    Good mornting America,
    The only logical reason to normalize relations with Cuba would have been if the Dook 4 Brains Communiest Island Nation just 90 miles south of Key West had kept up the quality of it’s pre-1960’s-embargo cigars up to standards.
    Well America they have not so there is exactly ZERO solid economic upside for Florida or the USA in normalizing relations with that $hi+hole Nation 90 miles to our south.
    Now if we wanted to do it just to whizz off Putin and the Chinks moon-faced/pie-faced leader then I, The Earl Of Politics, would give it my full resounding blessing as it would immediatly cause Putin to withdraw from Ukraine and immediaty cause the Chinks moon-faced/pie-faced leader to give up his Evil Bond Villian plans to take over Tiawan and The Phillipieans.
    But strictly for economic reasons:
    HeII to The NO!!!!!

  • Alexandra Zakhvatayev

    October 24, 2023 at 11:16 am

    My heart is with the Cuban Americans. Our family also faces a similar fight for freedom back in Ukraine, under missiles, rockets, and terrorism inflicted on once peaceful civilian life. But Byron Donalds has politicized military aid to Ukraine – which at a fraction as small as 3%-5% of the US military budget, could help defeat Russian brutality.

    Stand with US allies. Stand with those who live oppressed under terrorists regimes. Stand with all people who suffer atrocities to humanity. Stand fully with all people who are against the power axis which fuels global terror.

    In Byron’s time in Congress, he failed to stand. Call to VETO Byron Donalds bid for Speaker, who’s failure to articulate Russia’s threat to national security invalidates his support for all other allies, including Israel and the people of Cuba. As leaders of the FREE WORLD< we cannot let this man be the Speaker of the House of Congress

    Alexandra Zakhvatayev
    Constituent of FL-CD-19

Comments are closed.


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