Cuba Politics

US agricultural and travel to Cuba bill HR4645 goes to Foreign Affairs committee

Posted September 23, 2010 by publisher in Cuba Politics.

John McAuliff | Fund for Reconciliation and Development

Thanks to Jake Colvin for passing on this important and frankly surprising news that the travel bill will be marked up next Wednesday. This will be the crucial test and our last chance to end travel restrictions for at least two years if the Republicans win the House.

Rep. Berman had said he would not bring the bill up if he did not have the votes.  It may also be that a vote is the only way to get members off the fence. Constituent pressure matters most so if you know folks who live in the district of any member of the Committee, ask them to immediately make calls or fax to their Representative or use their on line message system. The crucial message is to approve the travel language as it is currently written.

The list of members, annotated by how much they received from the anti-travel PAC

I will annotate soon whether they have endorsed one of the travel bills. If the bill is favorably reported from the Committee, it can go to the House floor, although that probably won’t be until after the mid-term election. (see Congressional Quarterly article below)

The hearing will be simulcast. Go to the Committee web page for the link just before noon on Wednesday September 29th. 

Spread the word. This is it! Vigils in front of district offices of swing members and opponents are in order. Local newspapers should be alerted to solicit editorials or to allow you to write an op ed.

Maybe the next thing will be the President, or at least the First Lady, accepting Alicia Alonso’s invitation to attend the international ballet festival in Havana. 

WASHINGTON, D.C. 20515-0128

Howard L. Berman (D-CA), Chairman

September 22, 2010


You are respectfully requested to attend an OPEN markup of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, to be held in Room 2172 of the Rayburn House Office Building (and available live, via the WEBCAST link on the Committee website) for the purpose of markup of the following legislation:

DATE:  Wednesday, September 29, 2010

TIME:  12:00 p.m.

MARKUP OF:  H.R. 4645, Travel Restriction Reform and Export Enhancement Act.

By Direction of the Chairman

Congressional Quarterly

Election-Minded Democrats Say ‘No Cigar’ to Cuba Measure

A last-ditch, business-backed push to ease travel and trade restrictions on Cuba has run into heavy opposition from a number of influential Democrats warning of political fallout for party candidates in Florida and other states.

The dispute pits a loose alliance of liberal and farm-state lawmakers ­ led by House Foreign Affairs Chairman Howard L. Berman and Agriculture Chairman Collin C. Peterson ­ against staunch foes of Cuba such as New Jersey’s Albio Sires, a Cuban-American, and Florida’s Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Both are senior members of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

So far, Speaker Nancy Pelosi appears to be resisting calls to bring the bill to the House floor before the Nov. 2 elections, though she said she remains open to moving it (HR 4645) this year. She stopped short of promising a floor vote. “We’ll see,” she said.

California’s Berman said he is trying to line up votes so his committee can approve the bill and send it to the full House as soon as possible. Berman’s panel is the last still to act on the bill. Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank, D-Mass., whose committee also had jurisdiction, said he has ceded his panel’s jurisdiction.

Minnesota’s Peterson, whose Agriculture panel marked up the bill in June, said the measure is gaining momentum and has support from a wide variety of business groups, including the Chamber of Commerce. The chamber urged the Foreign Affairs Committee in a letter Aug. 24 to approve the bill and “end the unproductive preoccupation with an aging and moribund Communist regime.”

The bill would end a ban on most travel to Cuba that was first put in place as part of an economic embargo by President John F. Kennedy in 1961. It also would end a requirement embedded in federal law (PL 106-387) that restricts some agricultural exports to Cuba.
But Sires said he and Wasserman Schultz have warned Democratic leaders the bill would anger Cuban-American voters and hurt the electoral prospects of Florida Democrats. “This is not something that you want to do now,” Sires said Thursday.

Also pushing for swift House action is outgoing Sen. Byron L. Dorgan of North Dakota, among many grain-state lawmakers behind easing the trade requirements. “This is the time to eliminate the restrictions,” he said.

But the legislation has been attacked by Robert Menendez of New Jersey, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, who contends that its passage would help Cuban leaders extend a “reign of oppression and human rights violations.”

Member Comments

On September 29, 2010, publisher wrote:

Nope. Not today. Postponed because Berman doesn’t have the votes.


Regarding a September 7 conference call…

“We’re not quite there in terms of votes,” Berman said during the conference call. “We have 19 hard votes. I want 24.”

No doubt this is the real reason Berman decided at the last minute to delay a markup

Berman said 15 Democrats and four Republicans on the Foreign Affairs Committee want to allow all Americans to travel to Cuba.

John McAuliff, coordinator of the Travel Industry Committee on Cuba who was also on the Sep. 7 conference call with Berman, said he now has the impression Peterson’s measure may not ever make it out of the House
Foreign Affairs Committee.

“It is going to be a rough challenge,” said McAuliff. “Nothing Berman said makes me confident we’re going to win in the House.”


This postponement is certainly not a positive development.

Here’s the press release from Berman’s office.