If you've been following the national news, you've probably heard that Washington, DC, has been slammed by more snowstorms than usual this winter season (only Syracuse, NY, has had more). This past weekend's snowstorm, dubbed "Snowmageddon" by President Obama and "Snowpocalypse" by some LAWG staffers and other DC-area residents, was so powerful that the Federal Government has remained closed since the snowflakes began falling last Friday afternoon. Today, we're being hit by yet another snowstorm, and we haven't even finished shoveling and plowing ourselves out of the last one!
Sound familiar? U.S.-Cuba policy has been stuck in a similar freeze (the Cold War era) for years now. And since the new administration and Congress took office last year, we've been hard at work with Cuba policy advocates, partners here in Washington, Cuban Americans, humanitarian groups, the travel industry, and key members of Congress to help our government (at long last) shovel itself out of this mess. We made great progress with the Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act (HR 874, introduced by Congressmen Delahunt and Flake; and S 428, introduced by Senators Dorgan and Enzi), ultimately winning the public support of 177 House members and 38 senators. But it appears that we've gone about as far as we can in attracting additional co-sponsors to these two original travel bills.
So, with the support of our allies in Congress, we're going to try a new strategy that gives us the best chance of ending the travel ban this year. Agriculture Committee Chairman Peterson (D-MN) and Congressman Moran (R-KS) are getting ready to introduce a bill that would put the United States and Cuba firmly on a path towards engagement by (finally) restoring U.S. citizens' right to travel to Cuba and facilitating needed U.S. agricultural sales to the island that were initially approved by Congress in 2000. The bill was set to be introduced this week and debated in a hearing before the Agriculture Committee today; but with the snow shutting things down this week and Congress on recess next week, that's probably not going to happen right away.
Once Peterson-Moran is introduced, we'll likely have only a small window of time to act. We'll be asking you to educate your House representative about the positives of joining the bill as a co-sponsor so that we can demonstrate that we have the support to pass it. If we do that, Peterson-Moran could be out the door of the House and on its way to action in the Senate before long.