Cuba Trade Amendment Withdrawn As House Leaders Promise Path Forward

Inside US Trade
Daily News
Cuba Trade Amendment Withdrawn As House Leaders Promise Path Forward

7 July 2016

Supporters on July 6 withdrew their proposed amendment to the House financial services appropriations bill allowing private credit to be issued to Cuba for the purchase of U.S. agricultural products, with a promise in hand from the House GOP leadership that there will be a separate path forward through a committee markup for a separate stand-alone bill.

Rep. Rick Crawford (R-AR) said he would not offer his amendment to the appropriations bill after he secured commitments that include a meeting with Florida lawmakers who oppose the amendment. The goal is to work on a solution that removes market access barriers U.S. farmers face when selling their products in Cuba.

“Until today, there seemed to be no path forward for an agreement,” Crawford said on the House floor. “But we've gotten commitments from leadership and my friends from Florida that there will be a proper path forward and we agreed to find a solution that does a number of things.”

A Crawford spokesman said the commitments include a path forward for the lawmaker's original bill, H.R. 3687, which was introduced on Oct. 6, 2015. The bill was referred to the Agriculture Committee, where it has remained ever since.

Crawford prefers moving H.R. 3687 since that will be a permanent way to improve access to Cuba for U.S. agricultural products as opposed to an appropriations bill amendment that needs to be approved annually, the spokesman said.

The bill has been promised a path forward in either the agriculture, financial services or foreign affairs committees, the spokesman said. Crawford hopes to move the bill by the end of the year, potentially during the lame-duck session.

In his response to Crawford, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) said the government should help U.S. farmers sell their products throughout the world, but took issue with policies that support the Castro regime. Diaz-Balart is one of the Florida lawmakers who will meet with Crawford.

“[W]e cannot at the same time help a communist regime that harbors and supports terrorists and fugitives from U.S. law, the largest confiscator of U.S. property in history, fails to pay its debt, is one of the worst violators of human rights and religious freedom in the western hemisphere, is a top counterintelligence threat to the United States and a threat to democracy in Latin America,” Diaz-Balart said.

A similar Cuba amendment is still included in the Senate version of the financial services appropriations bill, which awaits floor action.

Similar language was also tacked onto a Senate appropriations bill last year, but was removed from the final version during House-Senate negotiations. Congressional and other sources said a similar outcome could happen this year with several key lawmakers opposed to ending the Cuban embargo.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) has repeatedly criticized President Barack Obama's push to normalize relations with Cuba without securing various commitments in return, sources following the Cuba embargo have said. Those sources added that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is focused on preserving the Republican majority in the Senate and is unlikely to spend his time on Cuba, especially with several key members opposed -- including three senators of Cuban descent who have criticized Obama's actions on Cuba: Marco Rubio (R-FL), Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ).

Questions also remain on whether U.S. companies want to lend to Cuba because of its poor credit history and whether those companies will offer terms competitive with government-backed credits from Canada, the European Union, China and Vietnam. Many governmental financial terms offer longer repayments than private lenders, sources said.