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President Biden discusses Cuba before a meeting Monday focused on gun violence. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

White House efforts to avoid dealing with the Cuba issue have blown up amid protests on the island, congressional backlash and political pressure from the South Florida Cuban community.

Why it matters: Joe Biden's performance in South Florida during the 2020 election explains his wariness — he was crushed by Donald Trump. Democrats are worried they'll hurt themselves in Florida — and more broadly in the midterms — if they mishandle the situation.

  • President Obama made détente with Cuba — including a trip to the nation — a signature foreign policy.
  • President Trump reversed much of that: He added sanctions, put the country back on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism and adopted a hardline approach — in line with critics of Cuba's Communist regime.
  • Biden's statement Monday morning backing the protesters was the first time he's publicly addressed Cuba since becoming president.

Between the lines: Biden’s Cuba policy review is ongoing, giving the administration some cover for the time being.

  • But the review is expected to end soon, sources familiar with the process tell Axios.

Reporters pressed White House press secretary Jen Psaki for more details during her press briefing Monday.

  • Psaki, who said in March that "a Cuba policy shift is not currently among President Biden’s top priorities," was asked whether the events over the weekend change the administration's view.
  • She said Biden has "(made) clear that he doesn't support the approach of the government of Cuba," but was noncommittal when asked specifically where the issue ranks as a priority.
  • The president later told reporters that “the U.S. stands firmly with the people of Cuba as they assert their universal rights. And we call on the government of Cuba to refrain from violence in their attempt to silence the voices of the people of Cuba.”

What they're saying: Republicans and outsiders have seized on the protests to attack the administration.

The bottom line: The challenge for Democrats isn't entirely from Republicans; their own party is split on the issue.

Be smart: Several progressive lawmakers have been slow to issue a formal response to the protests — or haven't issued one at all.

Go deeper

Updated Sep 24, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Biden unlikely to shield Trump White House records from Capitol riots probe

Photos: Anna Moneymaker and Brandon Bell via Getty Images

President Biden is unlikely to invoke executive privilege to shield any Trump White House records from the House investigation of the Capitol insurrection, Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Friday.

Why it matters: Though Psaki said they would evaluate on a case-by-case basis, it puts a dent in former President Trump's plan to block requests for Jan. 6 information by claiming executive privilege, a legal theory that can allow presidents and their aides to sidestep congressional scrutiny, per the Washington Post.

Stock buybacks boom as corporate cash piles grow

The Delta variant is keeping more companies cautious about how to invest the mountains of cash they have at their disposal. That hesitancy has led, in part, to corporate spending on stock buybacks outpacing capital expenditures this year. 

Why it matters: Companies hoarded cash and raised prices over the past year — leaving them with a lot of money and decisions about what to do with it.

3 hours ago - Health

Health policies at stake in Democrats' infrastructure bet

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Democrats are at a pivotal moment in their quest to expand health care coverage, slash the cost of prescription drugs and create a social structure that prioritizes people's health.

Driving the news: Democrats have a clear list of health care priorities they'll be fighting for this week. Among them is a measure to expand Medicare to cover dental, vision and hearing benefits.