Peterson Prevails: House Committee Approves Bill to Lift Travel Ban, Ag Export Restrictions

-

lawsuit-500.jpg
This is a guest post from Anya Landau French, who directs the New America Foundation/U.S.-Cuba Policy Initiative. This post originally appeared at The Havana Note.
House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, a conservative Democrat from Minnesota, is generally a soft-spoken, easy-going legislator who eschews demagoguery. But he sure knows how to move even the thorniest legislation.
Today, Peterson’s House Agriculture Committee approved a bill that would lift the Cuba travel ban for all Americans, and eliminate several hurdles to humanitarian exports to the island. It’s an historic moment: the first time Congress has taken a step toward full elimination of the travel ban (as opposed to the easier target of withholding enforcement funds) which keeps the vast majority of Americans from traveling to Cuba – with of course the very large exception of hundreds of thousands of Cuban Americans who, thanks to the Obama administration now enjoy unlimited travel rights to the island.
But the historic victory didn’t come without theatrics and a blind oppositional adherence to a talking point that goes something like this: “We can’t lift the travel ban because it would help the Castro regime and abandon the Cuban democracy movement on the island.” Nevermind that 74 of Cuba’s best known human rights and democracy advocates, including former and current political prisoners, wrote to every member of Congress earlier this month arguing that the bill’s benefits to the Cuban people outweigh any benefit to the Castro regime, and would not represent an abandonment of them or their cause. But perhaps most distressing was one member’s willingness to hold his constituents’ right to travel as a “bargaining chip” with the Cuban government.
Determined as they were to fight on the anachronistic Cold War turf with which they’re most comfortable, travel ban supporters lost today’s fight for one reason that trumps all reasons: Restoring freedom to travel serves America’s interests. From the local farmers in Maryland’s conservative Eastern Shore to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, members faced overwhelming pressure from constituent interests to put America first.
Now attention turns to whether and when the bill will be considered by the full House, and eventually reach the President’s desk. Last fall, Speaker Pelosi said “I ‘ve always been a supporter of lifting the travel ban to Cuba.” And while Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), a staunch Cuban American proponent of travel restrictions, was quick to promise a filibuster if his colleagues try to move similar legislation through the Senate, Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) says he’s already locked up the 60 votes he’d need to break a filibuster. So, where is the Obama Administration? Keeping its powder dry, for now. According to a State Department spokesman today, “Congress’ addition to the robust discussion on the future of Cuba is healthy and an example of the democratic process that we would like to see in Cuba.”
I’m not sure I’d call today’s debate “healthy”, but it shows that Congress is facing up to the failure of a Cuba policy for which it shares responsibility with the Executive Branch, and finally doing something about it.
— Anya Landau French

Comments

8 comments on “Peterson Prevails: House Committee Approves Bill to Lift Travel Ban, Ag Export Restrictions

  1. Mr.Murder says:

    Now perhaps Chavez moves into a range of rhetoric that will enable discussions?
    Can this serve as an example for us to break across the barriers both sides employ in talks with Iran?
    Reading this late to the thread, on this holiday, is such good news. A toast, fresh coffee and cigars over conversation, citrus sliced and shared for additional energy!

    Reply

  2. Mr.Murder says:

    Now perhaps Chavez moves into a range of rhetoric that will enable discussions?
    Can this serve as an example for us to break across the barriers both sides employ in talks with Iran?
    Reading this late to the thread, on this holiday, is such good news. A toast, fresh coffee and cigars over conversation, and citrus sliced and shared for additional energy!

    Reply

  3. samuelburke says:

    Any step forward, toward normalization, and clearly away from
    conflagration-ism is a step in the right direction.
    There is no good argument for continuation of the bellicosity
    that exists between these two governments.
    it is very bad foreign policy.

    Reply

  4. ... says:

    moving forward at a glacial pace, while moving backward on some other countries at rapid speed… must be positive, lol…

    Reply

  5. Erichwwk says:

    Erichwwk,
    Yes, a lot.
    Warm regards,
    –drew

    Reply

  6. erichwwk says:

    Just curious. Why are alleged foreign agents, accused only of gathering public, non-classified information on how Americans think and participate in their political process considered ‘spying”?
    Am I missing something?

    Reply

  7. Linda says:

    This happened at the same time that Elian Gonzalez was speaking out to foreign press for the first time in Cuba.
    And in the same week that we are rounding up Russia spys that have been living in the suburbs, getting MBAs from Columbia University and MPAs from the Kennedy School at Harvard.
    I think the only thing to do right now is either put on a CD of the Buena Vista Social Club or go find re-runs of “Rocky and Bullwinkle” on-line.

    Reply

  8. Kenny B. says:

    The debate at the hearing was weird. Republicans
    seemed extremely confused by the nature of committee
    jurisdictions, and what their own votes actually
    meant.

    Reply

Add your comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *