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Illinois Republican: Cuba Agreement "Good First Step"

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U.S. House

Illinois' Congressional delegation has mixed reviews on the United States moving to normalize relations with Cuba. Like many key Republicans, U.S. Senator Mark Kirk denounced President Barack Obama for setting what he called a "dangerous precedent" by conceding to a dictator. But another Republican, Congressman Rodney Davis of Taylorville, says lifting outdated trade restrictions will strengthen Cuba's middle class, and weaken Raoul Castro's regime. Davis also says it'll open the market for Illinois' agricultural commodities. U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, likewise applauds Obama's actions.

Many Republicans are denouncing President Barack Obama's agreement with Cuba, but at least one G-O-P member of Illinois' delegation calls it a good first step.

Rodney Davis, of Taylorville, was working for another Illinois Republican -- Congressman John Shimkus of Collinsville -- when he traveled to Cuba a decade ago. Now a Congressman, Davis referenced that trip in a statement about Obama's move to normalize diplomatic ties with Cuba.

He says that as one of the few members of Congress who has been there, he believes that removing barriers to trade and travel will boost America's economy along with Cuba's. Davis hints that the shift could provide an extra boost to Illinois, given that it's the second largest exporter of agriculture commodities.

Illinois' junior U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, a Republican, is more in line with his party's leaders, who have denounced the President's move.

Kirk issued a statement criticizing Obama for normalizing relations without guarantees of democratic reforms from Cuba. Kirk says "President Obama has continued the practice of treating our friends like enemies and our enemies like friends."

Illinois senior U.S. Sen., Dick Durbin, a Democrat, had positive words about Obama's announcement. Durbin says it'll "create a positive force for change in Cuba" that 50 years of "our current policy of exclusion" couldn't.

Amanda Vinicky moved to Chicago Tonight on WTTW-TV PBS in 2017.
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