Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) on Wednesday threw cold water on President Barack Obama's plans to talk to Congress about lifting the U.S. embargo against Cuba.
"This Congress is not going to lift the embargo," Rubio told reporters just moments after Obama outlined his plans.
Obama announced several changes he'd implement, including expanded trade with Cuba, eased restrictions on U.S. travel to Cuba, and letting Cuban-Americans send more money to relatives on the island. He also said his administration would review whether Cuba belongs on the list of state sponsors of terrorism — removal from that list would ease other sanctions against Cuba.
But Rubio blasted these announcements as a series of U.S. concessions for which the U.S. got nothing in return. He also said he would do as much as he can to unwind Obama's plans, and hinted he'd work to stop the U.S. from creating and staffing a new embassy in Cuba, as Obama wants.
"I anticipate I'll be the chairman of the Western Hemisphere subcommittee of Foreign Relations," he said. "And I anticipate we're going to have a very interesting couple of years discussing how you're going to get an ambassador nominated and how you're going to get an embassy funded."
Critics of the embargo have long argued that it hasn't helped create political change in Cuba. But supporters like Rubio have pointed out that it was imposed in response to Cuba's expropriation of U.S. property, and that it should only be lifted as part of a settlement on those claims, and moves by Cuba toward democratic reforms.
However, Rubio said Obama apparently got very little for the concessions he made.
"The White House has conceded everything, and gained little," he said. "They gained no commitment on the part of the Cuban regime to freedom of press, or freedom of speech, or elections. No binding commitment was made to truly open up the Internet."
"No commitment was made to allowing the establishment of political parties, or to even begin the semblance of a transition to democracy," he added.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) also indicated opposition to Obama's plan, by agreeing that Obama appears to have made several concessions to Cuba in return for nothing.
"There is no 'new course' here, only another in a long line of mindless concessions to a dictatorship that brutalizes its people and schemes with our enemies," Boehner said. "If anything, this emboldens all state sponsors of terrorism, as they now have an even better idea of what the president meant when he once told Russian leaders he would have 'more flexibility' after his re-election."
"We have seen this before, and I fear we will see it again," he added.
Rubio said that all Cuba agreed to was to free 53 domestic prisoners, who Rubio said could end up in jail at any time "if they once again take up the cause of freedom." Cuba also agreed to United Nations monitoring and Red Cross visits but said the UN has failed before.
"The same United Nations… did nothing when Cuba last year was caught helping North Korea evade United Nations sanctions," he said.
Rubio repeated his statement that by giving up several concessions and getting little in return, Obama has proven himself to be the "single worst negotiator in the White House in my lifetime."
He also warned that those concessions, including increased trade, travel and family remittances that can be sent to the island, will only be used to the advantage of Raul and Fidel Castro.