By Dawn Gable
HAVANA TIMES, August 17 — The race is on and time is running out. Will Obama ease travel restrictions before Congress gets even one Chamber to vote on the hard-worked bills that would lift the ban altogether?
Vague rumors are flying around the Capital about an upcoming announcement from the Administration that would allow more cultural and educational travel to Cuba reminiscent of the late Clinton era. Looks like Obama is tired of waiting on Congress. But executive rules only lasts until another executive changes them. So we still need Congress to act.
What is Congress’ problem? Well there are many. But according to my conversations with some folks on the Hill…. the House-side thinks it would better for the Senate to take the lead on moving legislation to end the travel ban. The House is reluctant to expend the effort of passage in their Chamber only to have the measure defeated in the Senate.
Senators Dorgan and Enzi, authors of legislation in the Senate that would allow unrestricted travel (S. 428), have recently claimed in a press release that they have the votes to pass it, despite Bob Menendez promise to filibuster. Dorgan is the chairman of the Democratic Policy Committee, which decides which bills reach the Senate floor and when.
This gives him a disproportional amount of clout, especially since there is such a backlog of House-approved bills awaiting Senate passage before the end of the year. If he brings his bill up, it would be in the best interest of everyone with other pending legislation to get it through as quickly as possible.
Considering that Dorgan is retiring in a few months, this is his opportunity to go out with a splash! He has long championed efforts to develop relations with Cuba. In fact, just last week he added language to the Senate appropriations bill that would redefine “cash in advance” when selling agricultural products to Cuba. (Rep. Serrano passed similar language in the House appropriations bill in 2009, but the Treasury Department disagreed and did not implement the change.)
Sen. Dorgan, it looks like it might be up to you to get the ball rolling. Let this be your legacy. Wouldn’t you like wikipedia to remember you as the Senator who opened the door and our hearts to Cuba?