President Joe Biden was caught on hot mic catching a Democratic senator off guard as he made his way through Democratic lawmakers following his State of the Union address.
While making his way through Democratic lawmakers, he stopped to speak to Bob Menendez of New Jersey.
“Bob, I gotta to talk to you about Cuba,” Biden said.
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.
But what Biden wanted to speak to Menendez about remains a mystery.
Perhaps the fact that the New Jersey senator takes a hard line on the island country’s communist government could be a clue?
One theory is Biden is trying to get a deal with the senator’s help in getting closer ties to Havana.
Judging by Menendez’s non-committal response, he was clearly taken aback.
Menendez and Biden have had differences in the past about Cuba, according to the New Jersey Globe,
Menendez opposed a Biden administration decision to loosen rules on group tours going to the island nation in 2022.
“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,” he added.
“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 calling for the extradition of suspected criminals and terrorists who have taken refuge in Cuba.
The Biden administration has been seeking to restart discussions with Cuba on counterterrorism and law enforcement issues, the State Department said.
“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.”