LAWG email update
Well, the news is not good. Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND), at about 3:30 this afternoon, withdrew his Cuba travel amendment. He withdrew it because of a procedural maneuver on the part of the anti-engagement forces.
Senator John Ensign (R-NV), at the very last moment, offered what is called a Second Degree Amendment to Senator Dorgan’s amendment. The anti-engagement forces knew that Senator Dorgan’s travel amendment would pass—overwhelmingly and with bipartisan support. So, instead of engaging in a democratic debate on the floor of the Senate (no one spoke against the Dorgan amendment when it was offered), and instead of allowing a clean up-and-down vote on a relevant amendment to an appropriations bill, they resorted to an undemocratic and nasty procedural move.
The Ensign 2nd Degree Amendment was not germane to the issue, and it should have fallen to a point of order because it was legislating on an appropriations bill. But, the amendment he chose muddied the waters and put many senators from both parties in a difficult position. His amendment’s stated purpose was “to prohibit taking minors across State lines in circumvention of laws requiring the involvement of parents in abortion decisions.” Unbelievable, isn’t it!
So, rather than have his amendment pass with this secondary amendment attached to it, Senator Dorgan withdrew the travel amendment. Here is a paraphrase of a few of his comments, as he withdrew:
Dorgan: I am withdrawing my amendment, one that is germane and relevant . . . The reason I am withdrawing my amendment is because a fellow senator submitted a second degree amendment to mine dealing with abortion . . . The use of a second degree amendment on abortion is unbelievable. Procedurally legal, but unbelievable . . . Elementary and high school students should all be watching today to see how politics really works . . .
There are more people and more money dedicated to tracking illegal travel to Cuba than there is money used for tracking illegal activities by Al Qaeda agents. This hardly seems to be a good use of our country’s resources . . .
This is just a small setback in our efforts. We have won on this issue in the past and we will win again in the future. Someday we will win and it will not be undemocratically stripped in conference. The will of the United States people will prevail. End of Paraphrase.
We are very disappointed and frustrated at the lack of democratic process in dealing with Cuba policy issues in this Congress and by this Administration. We encourage you to protest to your senators. The Second Degree Amendment should have been declared out of order; a vote on the travel amendment should have happened; and it would have passed.
Where do we go from here? Well, we gather our forces, our sense of what is right, and we continue the struggle. We’ll get back to you with some next steps.
Thanks for all you do! Many of you made calls and sent emails. We need to keep raising our voices. We have had a rough year (Cuba policy, and lots more), but Senator Dorgan is right. One day we will succeed in changing this policy and ending the embargo—democratically through the conference process. For now, we have to continue our efforts with the same fervor and intensity to make sure that we are ready when that day comes. Diminishing our efforts now would mean yielding a piece of our progress to the opposition. That we won’t do.
Latin America Working Group