2nd bill limiting Cuba travel approved in Congress
A congressional committee approves a second bill to limit travel to Cuba.
By Juan O. Tamayo
A second bid to overturn President Barack Obama's easing of restrictions
on travel to Cuba has been endorsed in the U.S. Congress, this time an
amendment submitted by South Florida Republican Rep. David Rivera and
approved in a strongly bipartisan 36-6 vote.
The move approved by the House Foreign Affairs Committee late Thursday
was an amendment to a State Department authorization bill, which
Congressional analysts said could be easily stripped of the Cuba
language as it makes its way through Capitol Hill.
But the vote tally showed surprising support by Democratic Congress
members for a measure that runs counter to Obama's policy of easing
limits on Cuba travel — 20 Republicans and 13 Democrats in favor, and
six Democrats against.
The amendment was similar to one that another South Florida Republican,
Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, attached to a U.S. Treasury appropriations bill
by a voice vote last month. Appropriations bills are considered to be
much harder to change than authorization bills.
Both the Rivera and Diaz-Balart amendment set Cuba travel regulations
back to what they were under President George W. Bush, before Obama
eased them significantly for Cuban-Americans as well as non-Cuban
residents of the United States.
Rivera's move was essentially an amendment to an amendment submitted by
Rep. Gregory Meeks, D-NY, a supporter of expanded travel to Cuba,
requiring that the president enforce the Cuba travel regulations.
Rivera's amendment, submitted at the very end of a committee session,
inserted the words "as in effect on January 19, 2009," therefore
requiring Obama to enforce the much tighter Bush-era regulations.
The committee's 36-6 vote sent "a clear message to President Obama that
Congress does not support the unilateral concessions that his
administration has granted to the Castro regime," Rivera said Friday in
"We understand that we must not reward a regime that has been designated
as a state sponsor of terrorism … held an American citizen hostage for
more than 18 months, has no regard for the human rights of its own
people and has refused to allow freedom and democratic reforms," Rivera
"We must require change and reforms from the Castro dictatorship in
regards to human rights and free and open democratic elections before
pursuing policies that only serve to enrich the Castro dictatorship, "