United States Cuba Policy & Business Blog

Thursday, September 23, 2010

United States Cuba Relations: Berman's Second Act

Well its official. The House Foreign Affairs Committee announced that it will hold a meeting on Wednesday September 29th at 12:00 Noon to markup HR. 4645 and vote to report the measure to the full House for consideration.

Those who cannot attend the meeting in person may watch the proceedings from the committee's website.

Now this is where it gets tricky. A markup means just that, a "mark up", meaning that parliamentary efforts to amend the bill or suspend further consideration, "tabling" can be taken up. One scenario suggests that the opponents of travel will seek to remove that section from the measure and leave the agriculture provisions in the bill. Supporters of travel must insist that the members report the bill with the travel section intact.

More than half of the committee's members, http://foreignaffairs.house.gov/members.asp , have received donations from the anti-travel/pro-embargo PAC http://www.opensecrets.org/pacs/pacgot.php?cmte=C00387720&cycle=2010

Ironically, most of the members have never even travelled to Cuba. And it is unfortunate those donations have not been politically neutralized by proponents of travel. So the internal political evaluation matrix can go something like this in the mind of a Congressman and member of that committee:
[I know this is a controversial issue. Here are friends coming to me asking me to keep the travel ban and embargo in place and these folks are giving my re-election campaign a donation. Then there are these other nice folks who want me to vote to lift the travel ban, heck even some Cuban Americans have approached me. Certainly the arguments are good ones to lift the ban. But why should I vote to lift the ban when in the end, the people who want to keep the ban in place are the ones who are actually supporting my re-election?]

It is a political and self serving calculation that has gone unchallenged session after session. So what is going to unfold now is a high stakes political poker game. Will the members listen to the constituents - the moderate Cuban American and American majorities, the numerous polls, and pundits that overwhelmingly believe lifting the travel ban is the right thing to do and in the best interests of the United States and the Cuban people, or will they listen to their anti-travel handler$? We will find out who and what the committee truly represents on Wednesday, September 29, 2010.