What does the bill do again? It would do just as its grandiose-sounding title promises: restore the right, for each and every U.S. citizen, to travel to Cuba and exchange freely with Cubans (it is grand, isn't it?), as well as do away with some of the red tape that today keeps U.S. farmers from putting much food on Cubans' tables. Did we mention that this legislation would create an estimated 6,000 jobs here in the States? Read our February alert on the bill to learn more.
We're back! We're sorry for the recent radio silence for some of you; but we've been putting all of our time, energy, and wits into wringing every possible YES vote for H.R. 4645, the Travel Restriction Reform and Export Enhancement Act, out of the House Committee on Agriculture. Our recent alerts have been directed to those of you who live in districts with members "on the fence." But now is the time for ALL of us to activate.
If you've read enough to inspire you to act, please go ahead and skip to the action.
We're contacting you today because we're hearing that there could be a mark-up (read: vote) on H.R. 4645 in the Agriculture Committee sometime the week that Congress returns to session following the Memorial Day recess in early June. If the bill makes it out of the committee "alive," i.e. with the freedom to travel provision included (Ag Committee Chairman Peterson and his staff have assured us that they'll fight for this), we could see a floor vote in the full House within days of the ag mark-up.
Since I came to Washington, DC, 12 years ago to join the movement to restore U.S. citizens' right to travel to Cuba, there has never been an up-or-down vote in Congress on a stand-alone piece of legislation to retire the travel ban. Next month, that could change. We have a real chance to pass H.R. 4645, thus creating momentum for the Senate to act. But to make it happen, we need your best, most tenacious activism today. It won't happen without you.
How can you help make our common long-held dream a reality? **Please read the following carefully.**
If your congressperson is a co-sponsor of H.R. 874, the Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act (click here to find out):
1) Call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask to be connected to your congressperson's office. 2) Once the office is on the line, ask to speak with the Legislative Director. 3) Thank him/her for supporting H.R. 874, allowing all U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba. Educate the Legislative Director about H.R. 4645, which includes the same "Travel for ALL!" language as H.R. 874, and encourage the member of Congress to become a co-sponsor. If the LD isn't available, please leave a voice message asking for co-sponsorship of HR 4645 and for him/her to call you back.
If your congressperson is not a co-sponsor of H.R. 874 or H.R. 4645 (click here to find out), we ask that you take a few extra steps:
First, email this message (scroll down at the link and add your zip code) to your representative in the House. Remember, she/he needs to hear from you now.
Second (and this is really important!), immediately after you hit the send button, pick up the phone and contact your congressperson's office. Follow the steps described above, but instead of thanking, use this message:
Here's what to say: "Hi, my name is ____________ and I'm a constituent of Representative ____________. I'm calling to ask my representative to vote in favor of H.R. 4645, the Travel Restriction Reform and Export Enhancement Act, which would restore my right as a U.S. citizen to travel to Cuba. The bill would also cut the red tape that U.S. farmers currently must deal with to send agricultural products to Cuba, creating more than 6,000 jobs and helping put food on Cuban's tables. I respect that Representative ____________ has taken his/her time in considering this issue, but, respectfully, it's time for him/her to get off the fence. Please call me back right away at (your phone number) to let me know how my representative will vote."
Third, help us spread the word by forwarding our call to action to your in-district friends, family, and colleagues. Include a personal note letting them know why this issue is important to you. Ask that they, too, email and call your congressperson's office.
Fourth, ask yourself if you know any businesspeople, farmers, church leaders, or other influential constituents who'd be willing to weigh in with your congressperson. If you do, please forward them our message and stress the urgency of their activism.
As we wrote recently on our website, the fence-sitters in Congress are becoming increasingly reminiscent of the characters on Seinfeld who spent much of their time in a New York City diner endlessly debating mundane topics while astutely putting off any decisions. It made for very entertaining TV, but it doesn't make for very effective legislating. You, the constituent, can change that by inundating your congressperson's office with messages calling on her/him to vote in favor of H.R. 4645 on the House floor.
Lifting the travel ban is within our grasp. It hasn't been easy to get here. Let's make sure that all the emails, calls, letters-to-the-editor, delegations to Cuba, and rallies over the years pay off this year, in this Congress, by acting today.
Thanks for all that you do! We'll be in touch regarding the timing of a floor vote if and when we have a successful mark up in the Ag Committee.