House Dems Unanimously Block Resolution Condemning Sanders’s Cuba Comments

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February 27, 2020

House Democrats on Thursday unanimously blocked a resolution condemning Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) over his comments praising murderous Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.

After Sanders commended Castro for a "massive literacy program" during a 60 Minutes interview Sunday, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R., Fla.) announced a resolution condemning the Vermont senator. A Cuban American whose family fled to the United States, Diaz-Balart said the resolution declares "solidarity with the people of Cuba as they struggle against totalitarianism while demanding human rights, democracy, and freedom."

House Democrats blocked the resolution in a party-line vote Thursday, with two Florida Democrats skipping the vote despite previously criticizing Sanders's comments.

Reps. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D., Fla.) and Donna Shalala (D., Fla.) did not vote on the resolution, though both voted on the item immediately following it and Shalala spoke on the House floor just minutes before missing the vote. Both Democrats slammed Sanders following his defense of Castro. Mucarsel-Powell called the comments "absolutely unacceptable" and Shalala asked Sanders to "speak to some of my constituents before [deciding] to sing the praises of a murderous tyrant."

Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D., Fla.) also criticized Sanders's comments, calling them "ill-informed and insulting." However, she voted to block Diaz-Balart's resolution.

The three congresswomen represent districts with large populations of Cuban Americans. They have distanced themselves from Sanders as they face reelection. 

"You cannot condemn Israel and compliment Castro and win in Florida," Murphy told Bloomberg News.

Sanders has yet to receive an endorsement from Florida's Democratic congressional delegation. Mucarsel-Powell told the Miami Herald she is "seriously considering endorsing another candidate."

Diaz-Balart's resolution condemned Castro's "use of firing squads, imprisonment, torture, and acts of repudiation to suppress dissent in totalitarian Cuba." The Florida Republican admonished his Democratic colleagues Thursday for voting to block the resolution.

"It's shameful that House Democratic Leadership refused the opportunity to condemn Senator Bernie Sanders's inaccurate, hurtful, and irresponsible comments on the racist, terrorist Castro regime," Diaz-Balart said. "Unlike Sen. Sanders and House Democratic Leadership, I'm proud to, once again, stand with my Republican colleagues in solidarity with the Cuban people and not with the regime that oppresses them."