National Council of Churches logo represents the church 
as ecumenical ship, serving the world

ACTION ALERT FROM WASHINGTON OFFICE ON LATIN AMERICA 

July 28, 2000 

Dear U.S./Cuba Policy Advocates: 

After the dramatic vote in the House of Representatives last Thursday to allow travel to Cuba and  food/medicine sales to Cuba, House leadership took measures to remove both of these amendments on Cuba from the bill to be sent to the Senate. 

Thursday, July 27, the Treasury/Postal Appropriations bill, to which the Cuba amendments were attached, was combined with the Legislative Branch Appropriations bill (H.R. 4516).  In the process, the Cuba amendments were stripped from the combined bill. Both bills together are now referred to as the Legislative Branch Appropriations package (H.R. 4516). 

This maneuver barely survived on two procedural votes on the House floor, and further consideration of it was postponed until after the August recess.  Congress reconvenes on September 5. 

House leadership maintains that negotiations over this issue should happen in the context of the Agriculture Appropriations conference committee, which will also take place after the recess.  To review, the Senate version of the Agriculture Appropriations bill contains the original Dorgan/Ashcroft language to lift restrictions on food and medicine sales.  However, House leadership wants to substitute the Nethercutt "compromise" language, which would restrict travel and bar private financing of food and medicine sales to Cuba. 

Where does this leave us?  

  1. It will be important to assure that the language that becomes part of the Agriculture Appropriations conference report is the original Dorgan/Ashcroft language, NOT the Nethercutt "compromise" language.  We think that Mr. Nethercutt (R-WA) may be willing to work with Senator Dorgan (D-ND) on this, as Mr. Nethercutt was one of only four Republicans who voted against the combination of Treasury/Postal with the Legislative Branch Appropriations bill which omitted the Cuba travel and food/medicine language.
  2. It will also be important to oppose the Legislative Branch Appropriations bill if it does not include the two Cuba amendments on travel and food/medicine.

ACTION REQUEST:

Please visit or call your senators and representative in their district offices during the August recess, asking them to: 

  1. Vote against the Legislative Branch Appropriations package (which now includes the Treasury/Postal Appropriations bill) unless the two Cuba amendments on travel and food/medicine are restored to the bill;  
  2. Support the original Dorgan language on food and medicine sales to Cuba in the Agriculture Appropriations bill;  
  3. Oppose the inclusion of the Nethercutt "compromise" language in the Agriculture Appropriations bill.  This "compromise" would require that sales to Cuba be on a cash-only basis; and it would further restrict the ability of the President to grant general licenses for U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba.  Both of these provisions are unacceptable. 
  4. Ask your representative to co-sponsor the Serrano (D-NY) bill allowing the sale of food and medicine to Cuba (H.R. 1644), and the Sanford (R-SC) bill permitting freedom of travel to Cuba (H.R. 4471). Ask your senators to co-sponsor the Dodd (D-CT) bill allowing the sale of food and medicine to Cuba (S. 926).

The undemocratic tactics of the House leadership relating to Cuba are unacceptable and not worthy of our legislative process.   The Republican leadership is going to extreme measures to assure that U.S./Cuba policy does not change, even when courageous votes in both the House and Senate have demonstrated the will of the Congress to change the policy.  We need to let them know how strongly we oppose these maneuvers.  One way to do that is to have your senators and representative convey your displeasure to the leadership.  That is why it is important to contact your members. 

On a positive note:  great strides have been made in both news reporting and commentary regarding U.S./Cuba policy and the logic of ending the embargo.  And great strides have also been made in public opinion.   We now need to strongly call upon our senators and representatives to vote in ways that reflect the will of the majority of U.S. citizens. 

You can find your member of Congress' district office phone number on the Internet, or you can e-mail your member of Congress (address also on-line), both at  http://www.house.gov or http://www.senate.gov.  The Capitol switchboard number is 202/224-3121; the operator will transfer you to your members Washington, DC, office.  You can be transfered from one office to another so you need to place only one call. 

Thanks again for your help.  Please let me know what actions you take and what responses you get. 

Sincerely, 

Mavis Anderson
Latin America Working Group

The NCC and Cuba