Press Release | LAWG.org
Well, we wish we were coming to you with totally good news. We have some good news, and some bad news. Let’s start with the bad news to get it out of the way.
First, however, we want to say that we are tremendously grateful to the hundreds of you who called your congressperson (and others) and then called or emailed us with the results of your calls. It was very helpful information in preparing for the debates today, but it will be even more important as we begin to analyze who changed her/his vote, who took money from the so-called “US-Cuba Democracy PAC”, who caved in to pressure from the three Cuban-American reps from south Florida (the two Diaz-Balarts and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen) and Rep. Bob Menendez from NJ. All four of them lobbied members of Congress ahead of the votes, spoke to the amendments on the floor, and applied pressure on swing voters.
House of Representatives: Although hundreds of members of Congress received multiple calls and emails, and though there were good debates on the House floor on five different Cuba policy amendments (Cuban-American travel, educational travel, end-the-embargo, religious travel, military personnelóSgt. Carlos Lazoótravel), the Congress voted against the sentiments of the American people. The Flake military personnel amendment was prohibited on a point of order; the Davis Cuban-American travel amendment lost 208-211; the Flake religious travel amendment was withdrawn; the Lee education exchange amendment lost 187-233, and the Rangel “end-the-embargo” amendment lost 169-250. We are in the process of writing a press release and will send that to you, also, when it is completed. Roll Call votes are not yet available, but we will send you the link to them tomorrow so you can follow up with your member of Congress.
This was disappointing, to say the least. We are especially distressed at the seeming “buying” of votes through contributions to the campaigns of many members who changed their votes from previous years. We’ll be sending you more information on this in the future, when we have had time to compare votes to PAC contributions. For the time being, please register your distaste with members who voted against the amendments, and communicate your thanks to those who were supportive. Again, we’ll send you a record of how everyone voted once it is posted on line tomorrow.
So, where do we go from here? Well, let’s look at the good news next.
Senate: While the House is terribly hypocritical, loudly touting family values and then voting to separate Cuban families, the Senate yesterday voted on an amendment introduced by Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) to permit humanitarian travel to Cuba. The Dorgan amendment would have required the Treasury Department (OFAC) to issue a general license to individuals subject to U.S. jurisdiction and their immediate families to travel to Cuba to visit immediate family for humanitarian reasons. A point of order was raised against this amendment, apparently because the amendment was not germane to the Interior Appropriations bill where it was introduced, or because it was legislating on a spending bill. That meant that a 2/3 vote (64, in this case) was required to suspend the rules and consider the amendment anyway. Senator Dorgan didn’t achieve 64 votes, but he did get 60 votes on his amendment. The vote was 60-35: (Republicans 20-31; Democrats 39-4; Independents 1-0).
This is spectacular! It demonstrates that the Senate, a Republican body in its majority, is strongly supportive of family travel for Cuban Americans. It is probably an indication of the Senate’s opinion on travel overall, as well. You can see the Roll Call vote at
http://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/roll_call_vote_cfm.cfm?congress=109&session=1&vote=00167 . Call your senators and register your reaction to their votes. Capitol Switchboard: 202.224.2131. Email: see [url=http://www.senate.gov]http://www.senate.gov[/url] .
Next Steps: Certainly, it is NOT time to give up. The policy is more undemocratic and unethical than ever. The American people know that; Congress also knows that, but many chose to vote their party and their campaign contributions rather than their conscience or the interests of their constituents.
Congress is on recess now until July 11. This is the perfect time to gather a small group of constituents and meet with your congressperson in his/her home office. Don’t miss this opportunity! As always, we’d be glad to help with talking points and in planning your strategy. At the very least, call your members home office next week (we’ll remind you!) and comment on his/her vote.
Continue to encourage friends and colleagues to sign our travel petition; it is still useful with the Senate and with conference committee this fall. Our signatures are currently at 4,300; we’re still hoping for at least 10,000 (or more!) by the fall. Help us out! The link is: http://www.lawg.org/tools/petition.htm
Tomorrow we will send you the Roll Call votes, and some more info on campaign contributions that impacted the vote in the House today. And we’ll get back to you in the next weeks with more analysis of the votes, and with more ideas of positive actions we can all take.
Thanks again for your fantastic support and energy. Don’t give up!
Latin America Working Group