By Jason Hopkins
Democratic lawmakers Thursday successfully blocked a GOP resolution condemning Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’s laudatory comments about the Castro regime.
By a vote of 224-189 that fell along party lines, the House of Representatives on Thursday voted to block a resolution that not only condemned numerous human rights abuses that took place under the Castro regime, but also condemned recent instances where Sanders refused to fully denounce the late Fidel Castro’s dictatorial rule over Cuba.
The resolution was introduced by GOP Florida Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, who represents a district in the state that has 335,000 residents of Cuban descent — roughly half his entire constituency.
During a “60 Minutes” interview that aired Sunday, the Vermont senator said it was “unfair” to say everything about the Castro regime was negative, noting how Castro launched a “massive literacy program” upon assuming power. The following day, during a town hall event in South Carolina, Sanders stood by his remarks. During Tuesday night’s presidential debate, he once again touted Cuba’s progress on education.
Speaking on the House floor Thursday, Diaz-Balart called Sanders’s comments “blatantly false.”
“If anybody wants to know the devastation of socialism and the tyranny that so often accompanies it, I invite you to speak to some of my constituents, including thousands, thousands of former political prisoners now in exile,” the Republican lawmaker said, also listed several political dissenters who are being held in captivity in Cuba.
“For years, the Cuban regime has been on the list of state sponsors of terrorism for its support of other terrorist states, terrorist organizations, and violence around the world and in this hemisphere,” Diaz-Balart continued.
Despite widespread condemnation by the members of the Democratic Party — including U.S. representatives, presidential candidates and even a DNC spokesperson — no Democratic lawmakers voted to let the resolution move forward.
Democratic Florida Reps. Donna Shalala and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell issued scathing public statements against Sanders’s comments, but both lawmakers on Thursday notably skipped the vote, allowing them to avoid a decision on the resolution.
This move was not lost on Republican leadership.
“Rep. Shalala and Rep. Mucarsel-Powell’s constituents deserve to know why the representatives they sent to Washington did not even bother to vote on an important resolution to condemn Sen. Sanders’s comments & the Castro regime,” said Mark Bednar, a spokesman for House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy.
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