Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed into law Committee Substitute for Committee Substitute for House Bill 959 and faced immediate criticism from some quarters.
The law, titled “An act relating to state and local government relations with Cuba and Syria,” addressed contractual relationships “between Florida government entities and companies that have business operations in Cuba and Syria.”
Supporters of the law wanted it to take effect immediately.
Should Florida do that, the state government could face a lawsuit from the federal government and that would be costly and completely unnecessary.
Furthermore, Scott’s move, although likely unintended, will call President Barack Obama’s hand on what has been a waffling policy towards Cuba.
For instance, in April, 2009, Democrats extended a big hand to the Castro regime one week after the Congressional Black Caucus traveled to Cuba to indulge in what amounted to a political love fest with the dictator.
C-Span aired the CBC presser that followed a visit reported with details like “the kids eat ice cream” in Cuba and Fidel is “engaging.” Rep. Laura Richardson (D-Calif.) rambled on about the Cuban Revolution and excoriated those who “come to the table with Cold War ideas.” Richardson, perhaps irrationally and under the spell of a communist dictator she obviously admired, declared she planned to introduce a bill “to have real history in our history books.” It’s a wonder Richardson didn’t try to nominate Fidel for a peace prize.
I covered the CBC presser most big media ignored [see related story below].
One week after that presser, Obama lifted travel restrictions and some trade restrictions (including those on money transfers).
Obama was just beginning to get his land legs with the presidency, having arrived with no executive experience whatsoever. Democrats in Congress saw an opportunity and moved on an inexperienced chief executive.
By mid-April, 2012, Obama was the target of heavy criticism from Latin American countries over U.S. policies towards Cuba. Those countries want Castro’s island readmitted to the Organization of American States and included in the annual Summit of the Americas.
It’s likely Obama would make significant concessions if an election wasn’t looming. Democrats and communist governments expected Obama to concede far more than he did in 2009, but other political matters drew fire (ObamaCare, the war, the non-budget and spending) and by 2010, Democrats were in trouble and they knew it. The 2010 midterms confirmed their worst fears, returning the House of Representatives to Republican control.
The CIA World Factbook does list the U.S. as an import partner of Cuba, as of 2010, to the tune of 4.1 percent of the dictatorship’s total imports.
Scott rightly addressed these issues in a letter to Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner, citing the potential for a conflict between the Florida law and federal law as well as a “Savings Clause” that “must mean the substantive restrictions are inoperative if they would conflict with federal law.”
There is no doubt whatsoever about federal powers over the regulation of commerce with foreign nations. That power is clearly spelled out in the U.S. Constitution.
In his letter, Scott properly cited a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2000—“state restrictions on business operations with or in foreign nations violate the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution if they conflict with federal enactments relating to the same subject.” [Crosby v. National Foreign Trade Council]
Scott said he signed the Florida bill because he believes it is drafted in a manner that conflict with federal law is avoided. He rightly called on Congress and Obama to pass and sign “a law permitting states to independently impose such sanctions against Cuba and Syria.”
Scott included to-the-point criticisms of both regimes in his letter.
His decision probably saved Florida a new lawsuit. It is painfully obvious the current head of the Dept. of Justice will sue a U.S. state even if it means advocating for a foreign nation.
Scott’s decision places Obama in a must-respond position, and that would actually be a boon to other states.
Obama has waffled on Cuba and it is likely the president is still steamed by the Latin American countries’ criticism as well as the Secret Service scandal involving prostitutes and potentially other security breaches.
Those who respect the Constitution must respect it even when it impedes an action we want to see take place. We cannot have it both ways. If we expect that, we are no better than the failed leadership we currently see manifested at the federal level.
Scott made his opinions and his position crystal clear. Now it’s up to the president to do the same.
Criticism of the governor on this matter is misplaced, borne of politics rather than reason, and more importantly, dismissive of the supreme law of the land.
Republicans in the U.S. House now have an opportunity. Hopefully they will seize it.
Congressional Black Caucus Cuba trip: Media and pundit omissions (The US Report)
Full text of Gov. Rick Scott’s letter to Fla. Sec. of State on House Bill 959 (Office of Florida Governor)
Florida House Bill 959 (Florida State Legislature)
(Analysis by Kay B. Day/May 2, 2012)
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