The House Agriculture Committee approved a bill last week that proposes to ease travel restrictions to Cuba as well as make it easier to sell food and medicine to the regime. Folks in town who support the measure were pleased, no doubt as were the diplomats at the Cuban Interests Section on 16th Street, N.W. The thing is, House Rules and a Senate filibuster threat have all about put an end to this ill-timed proposal.
Under House Rules 101, subject to an exception or two not at issue in this matter, a bill cannot be referred to the full House for an up or down vote until all Committees of jurisdiction send the bill to the floor. In the case of this sanctions-easing measure, the committee of primary jurisdiction is the Committee on Foreign Affairs (“FA”), not the House Agriculture Committee that, under House Rules has sequential jurisdiction.
At this juncture, no full committee mark-up has been scheduled by FA. Even if the measure were scheduled for FA mark-up, and made it out in one piece, it still faces the Rules Committee and a full vote on the House floor. If all the political moons align and there were a comparable measure in the Senate that could pass, Democratic Senator Bob Menendez has already said he will filibuster.
Putting U.S. national security concerns and human rights aside, Cuba is a poor credit risk. The regime is incapable of successfully operating in a capitalist economy because it does not know how. It owes billions of dollars to creditors, including the United States. Finally, the Castro brothers know full well that Cuba owes billions to U.S. taxpayers for properties that were illegally confiscated by the regime. Easing travel would also require removing financial restrictions so that Americans could spend money in Cuba. This regulatory trojan would open the door to lawsuits by U.S. persons that are owed billions in outstanding claims and other matters (not necessarily a bad thing).
The House Agriculture Committee issued a press release last week hailing as ‘historic‘ the passage of Travel Restriction Reform and Export Enhancement Act (“TREEA”). Just like the Trade Sanctions Reform Act of 2000 (“TSRA”), however, TREEA harms U.S. interests with respect to Cuba and should be stopped. Under U.S. law and policy, the Cuban Communist Party has done absolutely nothing to warrant such a concession from the United States, quite the opposite.
Easing Cuba travel and making it easier for the Cuban Communist Party to purchase U.S. made products makes no sense, is ill-timed, and is politically reckless. Americans have plenty of other great places to visit in the Caribbean, Puerto Rico come to mind.