USA*Engage Blasts Elimination of Cuba Travel Amendments from Appropriations Bill

Thursday, 13 November 2003

"That the conference committee would thwart the will of both the House and the Senate on the Cuba travel ban - which were passed by overwhelming bi-partisan votes and were identically worded - is an affront to the Congress as a whole," said Bill Reinsch, Co-Chairman of USA*Engage and President of the National Foreign Trade Council. "Both houses of Congress had ample opportunity to debate the measures, and the results of that debate were clear: Americans should be free to travel to Cuba, just as they are free to go to just about any other country in the world. To remove this provision behind closed doors without even a vote is contrary to the principle of democratic process and the majority rule.

"The business community is deeply disappointed by yesterday's action, but we will continue to oppose this uniquely counter-productive restriction on the liberties of American citizens," Reinsch continued. "The USA*Engage Cuba coalition has maintained time and again that the end of the travel ban will encourage change in Cuba and provide a significant stimulus to many sectors of the U.S. economy. Yesterday's action was motivated by politics and squanders countless economic opportunities for U.S. businesses."

The USA*Engage Cuba Coalition, which wrote lawmakers endorsing both the House and Senate amendments earlier this year, includes associations such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, U.S. Council for International Business, the National Association of Manufacturers and the American Farm Bureau Federation as well as several U.S.-based corporations. Reinsch said that the coalition's work on the Cuba travel ban will continue despite yesterday's action.

"The wave of legislation passed over the past few weeks to end the Cuba travel ban is impressive and gives the clearest signal yet that there is momentum for lawmakers to end this 40-year ban. This week's Congressional action demonstrates a lapse in commitment to bringing about democratic reform in Cuba. How will we show the Cuban people that democracy works if our own system fails to put forth laws representing the will of both Congress and the people?" Reinsch concluded.

[In September of this year, House members passed the Flake amendment to the House Treasury-Transportation Appropriations bill to de-fund enforcement of the ban. One month later, the Senate followed with an identical measure to the bill, the Dorgan/Craig amendment. The Senate voted 59-36 to adopt the amendment while the House voted 227-188, for the fourth consecutive year.

Further action from Congress recently shows that momentum is strong for lifting the ban. Just last week, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee mark-up of legislation that would end restrictions on American citizens right to travel to Cuba, as another clear indication of the majority will of Congress to end the travel ban. The bill (S. 950), sponsored by Senator Mike Enzi and supported by Committee Chairman Richard Lugar, passed overwhelmingly in committee (13-5) and will now appear on the Senate's legislative calendar.]

USA*ENGAGE is a coalition of over 670 small and large businesses, agriculture groups and trade associations working to seek alternatives to the proliferation of unilateral U.S. foreign policy sanctions and to promote the benefits of U.S. engagement abroad. For more information on USA*ENGAGE and the harmful effects of unilateral trade sanctions, visit the USA*ENGAGE web site at