Here’s the most recent update from the Latin America Working Group in Washington, D.C.:
It’s not every day that we get to write you about a historic legislative victory for a more humane, sensible, and just U.S. policy towards Cuba; but today isn’t just any old day. In a thrilling “mark-up” session Wednesday in the House Committee on Agriculture, H.R. 4645, the “Travel Restriction Reform and Export Enhancement Act” was passed by 25 votes to 20, putting us one step closer to ending the travel ban this year, in this Congress.
Wednesday’s mark-up session was quite the roller-coaster ride. It lasted three gut-wrenching hours and it seemed like everything, including the kitchen sink, was thrown at this bill by freedom to travel’s opponents. Visit our blog to see a play-by-play of the action in the committee.
This news is cause to celebrate (the long weekend ahead is the perfect time, no?), but the celebration can’t last long. Wednesday’s victory demonstrates that our collective efforts are making an impact. The members of the Agriculture Committee were bombarded with messages encouraging them to show up to this mark-up and to support the Chairman in his effort to do away with an anachronistic and isolationist policy. Agriculture Committee Chairman Peterson should be applauded for moving this bill forward in the House, but doing so didn’t come without a cost. Since we can’t count on the members who voted to report the bill out of committee to vote with us on the House floor, we need to thank them for their support now (you can bet the opposition is contacting these members, too, but the message isn’t as friendly). In Washington, it often takes courage to do what is right and we should acknowledge it when it happens.
Agriculture Committee members who voted in favor of H.R. 4645 and U.S. citizens’ right to travel to Cuba:
(If your member is on this list, please call the office and thank her/him heartily. Capitol Switchboard – 202.224.3121):
Boccieri (D, OH-16) Kagen (D, WI-8) Boswell (D, IA-3) Kratovil (D, MD-1) Bright (D, AL-2) Lummis (R, WY-At large) Cardoza (D, CA-18) Markey (D, CO-4) Cassidy (R, LA-6) Minnick (D, ID-1) Childers (D, MS-1) Moran, Jerry (R, KS-1) Costa (D, CA-20) Murphy, Scott (D, NY-20) Cuellar (D, TX-28) Owens (D, NY-23) Ellsworth (D, IN-8) Peterson, Collin (D, MN-7) Halvorson (D, IL-11) Pomeroy (D, ND-At large) Herseth-Sandlin (D, SD-At large) Scott, David (D, GA-13) Holden (D, PA-17) Walz (D, MN-1) Johnson, Tim (R- IL-15)
We must also make clear to those members who voted against the majority of U.S. citizens, major human rights organizations, the religious community, the business community, U.S. farmers, Cuban Americans, academics, and countless others, that their decision will not go unnoticed. Please register your disappointment with your member’s office if she/he appears on the list below.
Agriculture Committee members who voted against H.R. 4645 and U.S. citizens’ right to travel to Cuba:
Baca (D, CA-43) Neugebauer (R, TX-19) Conaway (R, TX-11) Roe (R, TN-1) Dahlkemper (D, PA-3) Rogers, Michael (R, AL-3) Fortenberry (R, NE-1) Rooney (R, FL-16) Goodlatte (R, VA-6) Schauer (D, MI-7) Graves (R, MO-6) Schmidt (R, OH-2) King (R, IA-5) Schrader (D, OR-5) Lucas (R, OK-3) Smith, Adrian (R, NE-3) Luetkemeyer (R, MO-9) Thompson, Glenn (R, PA-5) Marshall (D, GA-8) McIntyre (D, NC-7)
Your efforts made this victory possible; but, although this vote was historic, the ban on travel to Cuba is not yet history. The next step is to get this bill to the House floor before election fever kicks into full gear–and to do that, we’ll need to redouble our efforts in the coming weeks.
Congress will be in recess all next week, many in their home districts. Their first full day of work will begin around July 13. There will be further updates, after the July 4th holiday weekend on which Congress people to focus our attention on.