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September 28, 2010 

House Foreign Affairs Committee Indefinitely Postpones Markup of Cuba Travel Bill

House Foreign Affairs Committee Howard L. Berman (D-CA), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, today announced that the Committee's markup of H.R. 4645, the Travel Restriction Reform and Export Enhancement Act, a bill that would lift the ban on Americans traveling to Cuba, has been postponed indefinitely.

The following is the text of his statement explaining the delay:

For a very long time, I have either led or supported efforts to repeal restrictions on the freedom of Americans to travel. The current prohibition on Americans traveling to Cuba is the last obstacle to the full enjoyment of this right. I strongly support H.R.4645, the Travel Restriction Reform and Export Enhancement Act, which would eliminate the Cuba travel restrictions.

The Committee had been scheduled to consider this legislation tomorrow, but it now appears that Wednesday will be the last day that Congress is in session before an extended district work period. That makes it increasingly likely that our discussion of the bill will be disrupted or cut short by votes or other activity on the House floor. Accordingly, I am postponing consideration of H.R. 4645 until a time when the Committee will be able to hold the robust and uninterrupted debate this important issue deserves. I firmly believe that when we debate and vote on the merits of this legislation, and I intend for it to be soon, the right to travel will be restored to all Americans.

In July, the House Agricultural Committee voted 25-20 to report H.R. 4645 to the full House, but the House Foreign Affairs Committee has asserted primary jurisdiction over the bill bill due to the foreign policy-related aspects of sanctions on Cuba.

The agriculture-related provisions in H.R. 4645 include restoring the ability of U.S. exporters to receive payment of licensed agricultural products to Cuba by cash in advance. In addition, the bill would authorize Cuban banks to transfer funds directly to U.S. banks for sales of products authorized for sale under the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000 (includes medical and agricultural products).

Given the political sensitivity of this issue in some jurisdictions, it appears that there were not enough votes on either side of the aisle to get this bill passed by the House Foreign Affairs Committee during this session of Congress.  

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