Newspaper article Roll Call

Cuba Travel, Trade Would Be Allowed under Senate Bill

Newspaper article Roll Call

Cuba Travel, Trade Would Be Allowed under Senate Bill

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Cuba Travel, Trade Would Be Allowed Under Senate Bill

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* By Tamar Hallerman

* Roll Call Staff

* July 23, 2015, 3:17 p.m.

Senate appropriators approved landmark language Thursday that would accelerate the Obama administration's initiative to thaw relations with Cuba.

The Senate Appropriations Committee adopted three amendments to the fiscal 2016 Financial Services spending bill related to the communist island nation, including a provision that would allow Americans to travel to Cuba under any circumstances and two others that would open up trade with the country.

The actions are significant, since it marks the first time the Senate has moved legislation that addresses President Barack Obama's steps toward normalizing relations with Cuba announced in December. Authorizing legislation related to Cuba has gone nowhere in the chamber.

Advocates of a warmer relationship between the two estranged countries lauded Thursday's votes.

"This is a first step by the Senate to dismantle a failed, discredited and counterproductive policy that in 54 years has failed to achieve any of its objectives," said Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, a senior Democratic appropriator and longtime advocate of opening up Cuba. "These votes were not about the repugnant policies of the Castro regime, but about doing away with unwarranted impediments to travel and commerce imposed on Americans by our own government."

Thursday's votes effectively guarantee that Cuba will be on the negotiating table should the politics allow for a wrap up omnibus spending package later this year.

But proponents were quick to acknowledge the challenges ahead. Any attempt to change current policy through legislation will undoubtedly be met with stiff opposition from most GOP leaders and House Republicans.

"We do know that an appropriations bill must pass Congress. What form it takes is uncertain," Jerry Moran of Kansas, who is part of a vocal minority of Senate Republicans in favor of opening up relations, told CQ. …

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