WASHINGTON (AP) — The House's third-ranking Republican said Sunday that he is ashamed of his colleagues for voting to ease the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba and its "ruthless, murdering dictator," Fidel Castro.
Majority Whip Tom DeLay of Texas believes Castro would use the food and medicines to increase repression in Cuba.
Two House amendments, both sponsored by Republicans, that were approved last week would ease sanctions in place for almost four decades against the communist-ruled island.
The amendments would restore virtually unlimited travel to Cuba as well as allowing export of food and medicine to Cuba. They were included in legislation to finance the Treasury Department in the next fiscal year.
"I think it's really unfortunate, and frankly, it's the first time I have really been ashamed of the House of Representatives," DeLay said on "Fox News Sunday."
Instead of helping the Cuban president, he said, Congress should have been "turning down the screws on this dictator that kills people, has killed American citizens over international waters, has put people in jail for being dissident."
The House vote was 301-116 to allow sales of food and medicine to Cuba. Voting "yes" were 119 Republicans, 180 Democrats and two independents. Opposed were 93 Republicans and 23 Democrats.
The provision's sponsor was Rep. Jerry Moran, R-Kan.
The travel vote was 232-186, with support from 60 Republicans, 171 Democrats and one independents. Voting "no" were 153 Republicans, 32 Democrats and one independent.
DeLay said Democrats provided the important support, even though Republicans Moran and Rep. Mark Sanford of South Carolina sponsored the two amendments.
"Overwhelmingly, the majority of the Republicans voted against this," DeLay said. "All those that believe in appeasement and have sympathy toward Fidel Castro come from the Democrat side."
"This is a ruthless, murdering dictator in Cuba, and all the food will go through him," DeLay said. "He'll use that food and medicine as a tool to continue to oppress his people."
On ABC's "This Week," White House chief of staff John Podesta welcomed the legislation as long as its benefits go to the Cuban people and not Castro's government. Generally, the Clinton administration has not supported tourist travel to Cuba for fear the influx of money would boost Castro.
"We want to try to work with Congress to see if we can implement that policy of creating ... more people-to-people contacts, which the travel amendment goes to, and to provide food and medicine to the people of Cuba," Podesta said.
He cautioned, "We want to do it in a way that doesn't support the Castro government. So I think we can work something out."