Washington, D.C.—When the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill comes to the House floor, likely on Wednesday, July 6, Republican Members of Congress will take the lead in offering two amendments that would ease travel and trade with Cuba. Debate on the amendments is expected Wednesday evening, with votes on Wednesday or Thursday.
Rep. Rick Crawford (R-AK) and three other Republicans—Rep. Ted Poe from Texas, Rep. Ralph Abraham from Louisiana, and Rep. Kevin Cramer from North Dakota—will offer an amendment to permit private credit for exporting food to Cuba, and in so doing, make it easier and cheaper for Cubans to buy food. Allowing agricultural financing would also have a dramatic impact on U.S. agricultural exports to Cuba.
In addition, Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC) and two other Republicans—Rep. Tom Emmer from Minnesota and Rep. Cramer—along with three Democrats, are expected to offer an amendment to prohibit the use of funds to restrict American travel to Cuba. After 55 years in which U.S. citizens have been unable to travel to Cuba without a special government license, this would mark a major breakthrough.
Both amendments are expected to have strong bipartisan support on the floor.
“Most Democrats have long supported trade and travel with Cuba. What we will see with these votes is the emergence of a strong bloc of Republicans who are leading efforts in Congress to improve U.S.-Cuba relations,” said WOLA Senior Associate Marc Hanson. “More and more Republicans are coming to the view that it’s in the interest of the United States, as well as in the interest of the Cuban people, to tear down the remaining barriers to normalized trade and travel.”
The Senate Appropriations Committee approved similar amendments two weeks ago. In a show of bipartisanship rarely seen in Congress these days, eight Republican Senators joined fourteen Democrats in approving the travel and trade language.
Over the last year, WOLA has worked to educate Members of Congress about Cuba-related issues and the need to end the embargo. In 2015, the Sanford travel amendment got 176 votes, including 18 Republicans. Since then, a bipartisan Cuba Working Group was formed in the House of Representatives and there has been growing support on both sides of the aisle for efforts to ease restrictions on trade and travel.
“These votes will show the extent to which Members of Congress, Republican and Democrat alike, are coming to see the embargo as a relic of the past that should be replaced by a strategy of engagement with Cuba,” said Geoff Thale, WOLA’s Program Director.