Consideration of Cuba Sales, Travel Bill Postponed in Foreign Affairs Committee

Legislation that would end the 50-year-old ban on most travel to Cuba and a requirement in federal law that restricts some agricultural exports to Cuba ran into scheduling problems last week in advance of the scheduled congressional adjournment.

Legislation that would end the 50-year-old ban on most travel to Cuba and a requirement in federal law that restricts some agricultural exports to Cuba ran into scheduling problems last week in advance of the scheduled congressional adjournment.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman (D-Calif.) postponed a scheduled markup of the bill (HR 4645) easing agricultural and sales restrictions against Cuba . The committee had been scheduled to consider the measure Sept. 29, but Berman said that since that date was the last day that Congress would be in session before an extended district work period, it is likely that the bill's consideration would be disrupted or cut short by votes or other activity on the House floor.

The bill would allow direct transfers of funds from Cuban to U.S. financial institutions for products authorized for sale under the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000, which granted exceptions for agricultural and medical products to the unilateral U.S. trade embargo on Cuba . It also would let U.S. citizens travel to Cuba , ending the long-standing travel ban.

The bill also would allow direct financial transactions for agricultural sales to Cuba and require agricultural exports to Cuba to meet the same payment requirements as exports to other countries. It would end the cumbersome requirement applicable to Cuba that payments to U.S. agricultural sellers must pass through banks in third countries.

The measure is sponsored by House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), who already has marked up the bill and moved it through his committee. A greater challenge, if the Foreign Affairs Committee approves the measure in November during a lame duck session, is gaining House approval. While there is stronger support for liberalized sales and travel relations with Cuba , there also remains a solid bloc of hard-core opponents of Cuba 's communist government who could stop the bill in its tracks.

However, at this point, it is not even clear that Berman has the votes to move the bill out of his committee. 

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