Cuba Policy: Dormant Not Dead, With Your Action

Mar 25, 2018 by

Latin America Working Group

Cuba Policy: Dormant Not Dead, With Your Action

There’s no shortage of Cuba bills waiting in the wings—there are five alone dealing with lifting restrictions on travel and financial transactions and trade. But what is lacking is Congressional initiative to take up, discuss, and pass these bills into law—a lethargy advocacy and activism can energize.

Reminiscing just a few years back, the Obama Administration moved away from the historic and damaging U.S. isolationist policy to a gradual normalization of U.S.-Cuban relations. This move sparked a new era of friendliness, loosening the travel and financial transaction and trade regulations and benefitting both the American and Cuban people.

But with the change in administrations, came a shift in attitude and focus. Trump unveiled a new Cuba policy, intent on rolling back much of the positive progress of the years previous. And he played favorites and bargained favors with Cuba policy hardliners like Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Representative Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL).

So now, many bipartisan bills remain dormant, hibernating in the subcommittees they were referred to in early 2017. Yet while Cuba policy is now stagnant, the potential for progress remains. We highlight a few standout bills, their potentials for the future, and actions you can take to end the embargo! See the more complete list of bills in the accompanying chart.

House Agriculture Exports Act (H.R.525)

Introduced by Representative Eric A. Crawford (R-AR), the Crawford Bill, looks to repeal restrictions on export financing, allowing firms to offer credit to Cuba in connection with exports of U.S. agricultural good. It also gives U.S. producers access to marketing programs that help them compete in foreign markets and eliminates restrictions to key federal funding used in financing exports to Cuba.

The bill has 62 cosponsors, including 43 Republicans, and was referred to the House Agriculture Subcommittee on January 13, 2017.

To help pass the bill, efforts are underway to include it in the upcoming Farm Bill, a bundle of legislation passed by Congress every five years that sets national agriculture, nutrition, conservation, and forestry policy. Whether or not this will be successful remains in question.

The Cuba Trade Act (H.R. 442)

Reintroduced by Representative Tom Emmer (R-MN) and Kathy Castor (D-FL), this bill would allow businesses in the U.S. private sector to trade freely with Cuba, while restricting taxpayer funds from being used on the promotion or development of the new market. It would lift the outdated embargo and resume the normalization process between the U.S. and Cuban economies, promoting business opportunities that benefit both countries.

The bill has 21 cosponsors and was referred to the Subcommittee on Trade on January 26, 2017.

At this point, the bill is idle in the House. However, Representative Emmer has successfully gained a significant amount of Republican support and remains enthusiastic about the future of the bill, casting a glimpse of positive light on the prospective potential of Cuba policy.

The Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act

House Travel Bill (H.R. 351)

Introduced by Representative Mark Sanford (R-SC), this bill, quite simply, removes travel restrictions to Cuba.

The bill has 13 Democrat and 13 Republican cosponsors and was referred to the subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere on February 16, 2017.

Despite having cosponsors, it lacks Republican support, as Sanford has not actively promoted the bill among his colleagues. In order to stay relevant, this bill will need wider Republican support and we urge Sanford to pick up this task.

Senate Travel Bill (S.1287)

Introduced by Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ), this bill serves as a companion to the House Travel Bill. Intentions of both bills are identical, introduction was different—this bill was released in the Senate prior to Trump’s Cuba policy announcement, thereby intending to completely and permanently remove U.S. travel restrictions to Cuba.

The bill has 54 cosponsors, a significant accomplishment, and was read twice and referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations on May 25, 2017.

Although a viable bill, difficulty remains getting the bill to the floor. And, as its lead sponsor is set to retire, there is no obvious or declared successor, making future advocacy for the next version of this bill uncertain. We trust that Senator Flake will recruit a strong successor for his bill, but to date, none has emerged.

Bills
Leading Sponsor # of Cosponsors Brief Summary Current Status
The Cuba Trade Act (H.R. 442) Rep. Tom Emmer (R-MN-6) 24 This bill would allow businesses in the private sector to trade freely with Cuba. Referred to the Subcommittee on Trade on
January 26, 2017
The Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act (H.R. 351) Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC-1) 15 The bill simply removes the current travel restrictions to Cuba. Referred to the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere on February 16, 2017
The Cuba Agriculture Exports Act (H.R. 525) Rep. Eric Crawford (R-AR-1) 63 Repeals financing restrictions, allowing firms in the U.S. to offer credit to Cuba in connection with exports of U.S. agricultural goods. Referred to House Agriculture on
January 13, 2017
The Agricultural Expansions Act (S. 275) Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) 16  Lifts the ban on private banks and companies offering credit for agricultural exports to Cuba. Read twice and referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs on February 2, 2017
The Freedom to Export to Cuba Act
(S. 1286)
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) 17 This bill would lift the current embargo and allow more U.S. goods to be exported to Cuba. Read twice and referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs on May 25, 2017
The Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act
(S. 1287)
Sen. Jeff Flake
(R-AZ)
54 Eliminates current restrictions on traveling to Cuba for tourist purposes. Read twice and referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations on May 25, 2017

Here’s What You Can Do

>> Urge your members of Congress—both in the House and Senate—to support the bills listed here!

>> Contact Rep. Sanford and tell him to ramp up his efforts on his travel bill in the House. We need all hands on deck!

Latin America Working Group
2029 P Street NW, Suite 301, Washington, DC 20036  |  Phone: (202) 546-7010  |  Email: lawg@lawg.org

 

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