President Joe Biden appeared to catch one Democratic senator off guard Tuesday night with his post-State of the Union agenda.
After the speech, Biden was making his way through Democratic lawmakers, including Rep. Adam Schiff of California and Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey.
“Bob, I gotta to talk to you about Cuba,” Biden said.
BIDEN: “Bob, I gotta talk to you about Cuba.”
BOB MENENDEZ: “Okay.” pic.twitter.com/Px0jhtcSaZ
— Jorge Bonilla (@BonillaJL) February 8, 2023
Menendez replied, “OK.”
“I’m serious,” Biden said.
“It looks like Biden wants to talk to someone about #Cuba,” Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida tweeted.
It looks like Biden wants to talk to someone about #Cuba pic.twitter.com/RO7r8xP0zI
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) February 8, 2023
It’s a mystery exactly what Biden wants to speak to Menendez about. The New Jersey senator is known to take a hard line on the island country’s communist government. Is Biden hoping for a deal to land the senator’s help in getting closer ties to Havana? Or has Biden decided to take a harder line, too?
Even Menendez sounded taken aback, judging by his non-committal response.
Menendez, whose parents emigrated from Cuba, has had differences in the past with Biden about Cuba, according to the New Jersey Globe, an online political news site based in the Garden State.
Last year, Menendez opposed a Biden administration decision that loosened rules on group tours going to the island nation.
“I am dismayed to learn the Biden administration will begin authorizing group travel to Cuba through visits akin to tourism,” Menendez said in a statement in May.
“To be clear, those who still believe that increasing travel will breed democracy in Cuba are simply in a state of denial. For decades, the world has been traveling to Cuba and nothing has changed. …
“For over sixty years, the tides of romanticism toward Cuba have come and gone, but they’ve always crashed hard against the rocks of reality. Today is another reminder that we must ground our policy in that reality, reaffirm our nation’s indiscriminate commitment to fight for democracy from Kyiv to Havana, and make clear we will measure our success in freedom and human rights and not money and commerce.”
In August, Menendez and Rubio partnered on legislation that called upon the Biden administration to make a policy shift that would call for the extradition of suspected criminals and terrorists who have taken refuge in Cuba, according to a news release issued in August by Menendez’s Senate office.
The Biden administration has been seeking to restart discussions with Cuba on counterterrorism and law enforcement issues, with the first talks held last month, according to the State Department.
“This type of dialogue enhances the national security of the United States through improved international law enforcement coordination, which enables the United States to better protect U.S. citizens and bring transnational criminals to justice,” the State Department said in a statement.
The statement said “this dialogue does not impact the administration’s continued focus on critical human rights issues in Cuba.”
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.