Remember when the Obama administration insisted that any changes to Cuba policy “would be done in full consultation” with Congress? Or that President Obama wouldn’t visit Cuba unless “we’re seeing some progress in the liberty and freedom and possibilities of ordinary Cubans?”

It turns out that while the administration talked about “full consultation” with Congress, it was in the midst of secret talks with the Castro regime — talks that led to surprise policy changes in 2014.  And today, President Obama is traveling to Havana even though arrests of Cuban human rights activists are on an “upward trend” and “the Cuban government hasn’t taken significant steps to ease limits on free speech.”

Sadly, President Obama’s long record of unilateral, one-sided concessions has only served to prop up the communist Castro regime while the Cuban people continue to suffer.  And “the White House won’t yet say which” — if any — prominent activists the president will meet with on his trip.

Still, after all this, the administration wants to be trusted on a major issue to the Castro government: control of the U.S. Naval Station at Guantanamo Bay.  The White House acknowledges Cuba is “sure” to press the issue in talks.  And though the administration claims to have “no plans” to give away the base “this trip,” it hasn’t ruled out a future move.

That’s why, last week, the House Foreign Affairs Committee approved a bill authored by Chairman Royce to prohibit the president from giving U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay to Cuba without congressional approval.

Here’s what you need to know about the base’s unique history, and Chairman Royce’s bill:

1. In the Spanish-American war, American troops — including Rough Rider Teddy Roosevelt — fought alongside the Cuban people. 

2. After American victory, Spain relinquished all claims of sovereignty over Cuba, and ceded it to the United States in the 1898 Treaty of Paris.  

3. In 1901, Congress authorized the president to “leave the government and control of the island of Cuba to its people” under express conditions — one of which was the sale or lease of Guantanamo Bay to the U.S.


4. In 1903, President Roosevelt specifically cited “the authority… contained in the Act of Congress approved March 2, 1901…” when he signed the lease for a naval station at Guantanamo Bay.  

5. Today, the U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay is America’s oldest overseas naval base.  And U.S. military officials continue to view its strategic location as “indispensable” to protecting America’s homeland.  

6. The base also remains a vital foreign policy asset.  In 2010, for example, the base was critical to America’s response to the tragic earthquake in Haiti.  

7. Since Congress specifically provided the president with the authority to acquire the U.S. Naval Station at Guantanamo Bay, Chairman Royce’s legislation asserts Congress should have to approve any decision to give it away, which certainly shouldn’t happen with this communist and hostile Cuban government.

As Chairman Royce has said, “the U.S. Naval Station at Guantanamo Bay is critical to our national security and humanitarian operations that have saved countless lives.  We must protect against executive overreach during this administration, and the next, and the next.”