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Congress Moves Forward on Cuba

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Authors: Anne McBride, Mavis Anderson

By Anne McBride & Mavis Anderson
Infographic: Support for Changes in
U.S.-Cuba Policy
Cuba Infographic
Download the infographic here.

The election of Donald Trump brought with it a range of serious concerns on Latin America issues and uncertainties. One of the many areas of concerns is the future of U.S.-Cuba relations after the historic detente initiated by former President Obama. Trump has vacillated between being open to pursuing business ventures on the island and taking a hard line with the Castro government, largely pandering to an influential conservative sector of the Cuban-American electorate. While the reconsideration of bilateral relations by the executive branch is surrounded by ambiguity, one thing is for sure: the legislative branch will not sit quietly while waiting for President Trump’s announcement. Bills have been introduced in the House and Senate, many of which have staunch bipartisan support. Here we outline the bills pending in Congress, their purpose, and their congressional cosponsors:

House Bills

  • Cuba Trade Act of 2017 (H.R. 442)
    • Introduced by Rep. Tom Emmer (R-MN)
    • This bill would allow businesses in the private sector to trade freely with Cuba, while prohibiting taxpayer funds to be used on promotion or development of a new market.
    • Cosponsors (as of 5/5/17): 21
  • The Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act (H.R. 351)
    • Introduced by Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC)
    • This bill removes all current travel restrictions to Cuba, including transaction restrictions.
    • Cosponsors (as of 5/5/17): 15
  • The Cuba Agricultural Exports Act (H.R. 525)
    • Introduced by Rep. Eric “Rick” Crawford (R-AR)
    • This bill seeks to repeal financing restrictions, allowing firms in the U.S. to offer credit to Cuba in connection with exports of U.S. agricultural goods. It also seeks to eliminate restrictions on key federal funding used in agricultural export promotions.
    • Cosponsors (as of 5/5/17): 37

Senate Bills

  • The Agricultural Export Expansion Act (S. 275)
    • Introduced by Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND)
    • This bill aims to lift the ban on private banks and companies offering credit for agricultural exports to Cuba, and to help level the playing field for exporters across the country and support American jobs.
    • Cosponsors (as of 5/5/17): 16
  • The Cuba Trade Act (S. 472)
    • Introduced by Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS)
    • This bill eliminates the prohibition of assistance to Cuba, and eliminates the president’s authority to impose sanctions against Cuban trading partners, etc. Effectively lifts the embargo.
    • Cosponsors (as of 5/5/17): 0

Probable Senate Bills

  • The Freedom to Export to Cuba Act
    • Prev. introduced by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)
    • While Senator Klobuchar has not yet reintroduced this bill, we expect her to do so soon. The bill would lift the current embargo and allow more U.S. goods to be exported to Cuba. The bill would also eliminate the legal barriers to Americans doing business in Cuba.
  • The Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act
    • Prev. introduced by Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ)
    • We’re unsure when Senator Flake will reintroduce the bill, but we believe that he will in the future, most likely when the timing appears to be most ripe. The bill, like H.R. 351, would remove all current travel restrictions to Cuba.

Keep track of these bills by going to www.congress.gov.