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Cuba policy smack down

New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez took to the Senate floor tonight to deliver a withering denounciation of proposed changes to U.S.-Cuba policy, all but pleading with President Barack Obama to reject the changes -- which have been tucked into a massive spending bill being debated this week in the Senate.

"The process by which these changes have been forced upon this body is so deeply offensive to me, and so deeply undemocratic, that it puts the omnibus appropriations package in jeopardy, in spite of all the other tremendously important funding that this bill would provide," said Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat who chairs the Democrats' Senate candidate recruiting committee.

"If the omnibus bill is signed by the president as is," Menendez warned, "He will be extending a hand while the Castro regime maintains its iron-handed clenched fist."

He also had a few choice words for those advocating opening up relations with Cuba, saying "they advocate for labor rights in the U.S. but are willing to accept forced labor in Cuba. They talk about democracy in Burma, but are willing to sip rum with Cuba's dictators."

Menendez also had harsh words for a report authored by Sen. Richard Lugar's office which suggested it was time for a change in U.S.-Cuba relations. He said the report's "lack of focus on democracy and human rights in the memo was astonishing."
Florida Sen. Mel Martinez has vowed to block the provisions, which would make it easier to travel to Cuba. Senate President Harry Reid took to the floor after Menendez and said he was "committed to working" with Menendez "to resolve the injustice that is happening 90 miles off the shore of America." He didn't go as far as saying he'd help Menendez and Martinez strip the language off the bill, only to say he "looked forward" to working with Menendez.
Read Menendez's prepared remarksCuba(03.02.2009) .