LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Democratic Southland lawmakers expressed support Wednesday for President Barack Obama’s plan to normalize relations with Cuba, calling it a reversal of ineffective, decades-old policies.

“Today opens a new chapter in U.S.-Cuba relations that rejects the failed policies of the past and embraces a new future that will better serve America’s interests and improve the lives of Cubans and their families,” said Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.

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“As I learned during a trip I made to Cuba in 2002 with the agricultural community from California, we will have enormous economic opportunities because of this action,” she said. “There will be many other benefits as well, and that is why I fully support this breakthrough.”

Rep. Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, called Obama’s announcement “the most significant foreign policy with our neighbor to the south in decades.”

“I applaud the Obama Administration and all those who worked to make these changes a reality allowing for a free flow of ideas and trade, including a new avenue for agricultural businesses in California,” Bass said. “We will also have the opportunity to test and share medical breakthroughs, particularly in the area of drugs that treat diabetes and long-term health concerns.”

Rep. Mark Takano, D-Riverside, said the nation has been engaged in an ineffective foreign relations policy with Cuba for 50 years. He said the United States should be promoting democracy in Cuba by “engaging the Cuban people, creating a presence on the island through travel and an embassy and promoting economic development.”

Republicans in Washington, however, were less impressed with the announcement. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, called it “just the latest in a long line of failed attempts by President Obama to appease rogue regimes at all costs.”

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House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, also blasted the move.

“Relations with the Castro regime should not be revisited, let alone normalized, until the Cuban people enjoy freedom — and not one second sooner,” he said.

Boehner called the move “another in a long line of mindless concessions to a dictatorship.”

Even some Democrats were skeptical of the announcement.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Robert Menendez, D-New Jersey and a son of Cuban immigrants, said it will “invite further belligerence toward Cuba’s opposition movement and the hardening of the government’s dictatorial hold on its people.”

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