Email from LAWG.org is below. Contact them if you would like to be on their mailing list.
Dear Cuba Policy Advocates,
Thanks for all of your calls and work � it did make a difference!
Yesterday was a busy day for Cuba policy on Capitol Hill. We made two steps forward and one step back. The House voted on three amendments to the Treasury-Transportation Appropriations bill that would have eased restrictions on educational travel, facilitated agricultural sales by the United States to Cuba, and ended funding for enforcement of the full embargo. Only the agricultural amendment passed, but we gained votes toward ending the full embargo.
Educational Travel Vote
Congresswoman Barbara Lee�s (D-CA) amendment to ease restrictions on educational travel failed by a vote of 178 to 236. The debate on the floor of the House was lively, with our side making the best points. Members of Congress Lee and Charles Rangel (D-NY) fought passionately for the right of students to study in Cuba. �This amendment addresses the issue of basic civil liberties,� Rep. Lee stated. �American students should be able to travel freely.� Rep. Rangel echoed her statement asserting our right to �cultural freedom [and the] educational freedom� to travel, study, and exchange with the Cuban people. �Nobody should deny us the opportunity to go anywhere that we want to� he stated. The opposition did not even argue the points and spoke only against the Cuban government.
To learn how your member voted, log onto: http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2006/roll285.xml. If your member voted in favor of the amendment, please call his/her office and say thanks. If not, call and ask why he/she didn�t! Call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 to be directly connected to your member�s office or log onto http://www.house.gov to learn who your representative is and how to make contact.
Jerry Moran (R-KS) offered an amendment that would lift the recently enacted regulations requiring U.S. agricultural producers to receive payment prior to shipping products. The amendment passed with a voice vote and will soon move to conference! Stay tuned - we�ll keep you updated as this amendment moves through the legislative process.
Vote to End Funding for the Embargo
Congressman Rangel offered his traditional amendment to end funding for the enforcement of the whole embargo. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) strongly supported the amendment, pointing out that �the desired outcome by the proponents of the embargo will not be achieved [and] in the process of forcing the embargo, the United States is paradoxically curtailing the freedom of its own citizens and the human rights and the very things for which the government criticizes Cuba.�
�America has to do what works� Congressman Rangel passionately stated. �The embargo is not working any kind of way, and the meanness of it all, to deny Americans an opportunity to visit their families in Cuba , or to restrict it to once every three years�is not the American way of life.�
Although both members spoke strongly against the decades old embargo, the amendment was defeated 183 - 245. But Congressman Rangel gained ground; last year the vote lost 169-250. To see how your member voted this year, log onto: http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2006/roll284.xml .
Religious Travel Debate
Members of Congress Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Jim McGovern (D-MA), Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO), and Barbara Lee (D-CA) sponsored an amendment that would ease new restrictions placed on religious travel to Cuba. It would allow national church bodies to renew their less restrictive licenses to travel and commune with their faith partners on the island.
All four members spoke about the positive role religious exchange plays in increasing understanding and cooperation between two peoples. According to Congressman Flake, the U.S. government is �getting dangerously close to curbing the free exercise of religion in this context.� Congressman McGovern agreed and expressed his resentment of �any restriction imposed by my government or any other government [onto the] freedom of churches and religious organizations to exercise their religion, meet in fellowship with their counterparts in other countries, worship together, collaborate on projects of common interest and celebrate their faith together.� Congresswoman Lee echoed this sentiment, expressing concern that the new restrictions are �hindering the ability of religious organizations to forge partnerships with their Cuban counterparts [which] really strikes at the very heart of our religious identity and our constitutionally enshrined freedom.�
Immediately after the debate, Congressman Flake withdrew the amendment on religious travel. The congressman felt it was important to introduce the topic and debate the points without having a vote so negotiations between the churches, the State Department and OFAC could continue.
Log onto http://www.lawg.org/countries/cuba/congress_watch.htm to learn more about this issue and read about past congressional action.
Thanks for all of your hard work yesterday; we will keep you posted as the legislation progresses.
We would especially like to thank Reps. Lee, McGovern, Flake, Emerson, Rangel and Moran for sponsoring these amendments and their consistent work for working for change in U.S. Cuba policy.
Until next time,
Latin America Working Group