Engage Cuba Applauds Senate Committee Passage of Pro-Engagement Cuba Amendments

WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee overwhelmingly voted to include four pro-engagement Cuba amendments in a must-pass FY 2017 appropriations bill. An amendment offered by U.S. Sens. John Boozman (R-AR) and Jon Tester (D-MT) to allow American farmers to extend private financing for the export of agricultural commodities to Cuba passed by a vote of 22-8, with the support from Committee Chairman Thad Cochran (R-MS). An amendment offered by Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Jerry Moran (R-KS) to end the travel ban on Cuba then passed by voice vote.

Additional amendments offered by Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), allow for the exportation of telecommunication services and the refueling of planes at Bangor Airport for international flights en route to or from Cuba, respectively. Both amendments were passed by voice vote. 
“This is what historic change looks like. The success of these amendments prove there is growing bipartisan support for changing our obsolete policy toward Cuba. More and more Members of Congress are realizing how unfair it is to deny Americans the right to freely travel to Cuba and to block American farmers and companies from doing business there,” said Steven Law, Engage Cuba Senior Advisor and former Chief of Staff to Senate Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).
“Increased American travel is already benefitting the Cuban people by fueling the vast expansion of the island nation's private sector, which is estimated to be now up to 40 percent of the workforce. Not only that, but more fundamentally, the federal government shouldn't be in the business of policing Americans' vacation plans," said James Williams, President of Engage Cuba. "The travel ban is inconsistent with our values as a free society and I'm glad the Senate Appropriations Committee made it overwhelmingly clear they want that to change.”

Amendment extending private sector credit & lifting ports restrictions
The amendment allows Americans to offer private credit for the export of American agricultural commodities to Cuba. Currently, Cuban importers must pay cash on hand for American agricultural commodities, limiting American farmers’ ability to compete in Cuba’s growing markets. The amendment also includes language to ensure that U.S. taxpayers wouldn’t be on the hook if Cubans default on lines of credit extended by U.S. banks and businesses. 

In addition, the amendment repeals the requirement that a U.S. vessel entering a port in Cuba may not load or unload freight at any place in the United States within 180 days without a license issued by the Department of Treasury. Amendment text is available here

Amendment lifting travel ban
The amendment ending the travel ban allows Americans to travel to the one country in the world to which the U.S. prohibits Americans to travel to freely, Cuba. Committee passage of this amendment follows on the heels of the Department of Transportation's announcement authorizing commercial flights to Cuba. Amendment text is available here

Amendment allowing US communications devices & services in Cuba
The amendment would allow the exportation of consumer communication devices or U.S. telecommunications services in Cuba. 

Amendment allowing refueling at Bangor International Airport
The amendment would allow refueling at Bangor Airport for international flights en route to or from Cuba. Currently, international flights are refueling in Canada instead of the U.S. due to restrictions in place as a result of the embargo on Cuba.