Cuba Policy Foundation 

Tuesday, October 15, 2002 

EMBARGO UPDATE:

CONGRESSIONAL CALENDAR BECOMES BIGGEST CHALLENGE TO EASING CUBAN EMBARGO IN 2002

   

CONGRESSMAN CAL DOOLEY INTRODUCES BILL TO SUNSET HELMS-BURTON LAW

 

Prepared by Brian Alexander, (Alexander@cubafoundation.org) 

  

CALENDAR MAY STALL PROGRESS:  Amendments passed this year in the House and Senate to ease the Cuban embargo are up against time, as the Congressional calendar increasingly threatens to push-back any lifting of the Cuban embargo until 2003.  Fortunately, for anti-embargo proponents, the stalling-out of the Cuba language would stem more from procedural processes, and not a political defeat of the policy initiatives, with 2003 promising even greater opportunities to ease the embargo.

 

A total of five amendments to ease the embargo are included in two of the thirteen 2003 appropriations bills in both the House and the Senate.  (See “Embargo Update,” August 5, 2002)  However, Congress is likely to go home for the November elections before final consideration of appropriations bills containing Cuba language.  Congress is then likely to return in November or December for a lame-duck session.  But legislative options during a lame-duck session would make inclusion of the Cuba language in the 2003 spending programs difficult.

  

Given limited time remaining for this Congress to conduct business, even with a lame-duck session, it is possible that Congress will not give individual consideration to many or all of the 11 of 13 outstanding appropriations bills for fiscal year 2003, including those containing the Cuba language.  Although Congress could consider bills with the Cuba language, more probable are the options of either a long-term Continuing Resolution or an Omnibus appropriations bill.  Each option creates unique obstacles to the survival of existing language on easing the embargo. 

 

A long-term Continuing Resolution (CR) would extend 2002 federal spending programs into early next year, when the 108th Congress would convene and then decide upon 2003 spending programs.  A long-term CR would mean that any amendments to appropriations bills and any new spending initiatives introduced in 2002, would have to be re-introduced and passed by the 108th Congress in 2003 – including the language on Cuba.

 

In an omnibus appropriations bill, as many as all eleven of the outstanding spending bills would be rolled into one gigantic bill.  Historically, amendment language often has been dropped out of omnibus bills, when the leaderships of each party in the House and the Senate meet to hash-out a streamlined document.  Under such circumstances, it is generally thought that Cuba language, along with that of many other amendments, would be the victim of lawmakers’ desire for a quick compromise and settlement of the bill.  It might also be cautioned, however, that omnibus bills in the past have provided opportunities for controversial or special interests provisions to be discreetly inserted into the multi-thousand page document.  Embargo opponents will want to be on the look-out for the insertion of language that could strengthen sanctions against Cuba should an Omnibus bill be proposed, as this practice has occurred in the past, the case of Section 211 and U.S. trademark protection being a recent example.

 

A survey of Congressional offices suggests that it is anybody’s guess as to how likely is a lame-duck session is likely, and whether a long-term CR or an omnibus bill will be how the 107th Congress wraps up its budgetary obligations.  Congressional staff increasingly believe that there will be a lame-duck session in either November or December, but remain unable to forecast whether an omnibus or a long-term continuing resolution would then be the most likely outcome.

 

The run-out of the calendar would spare the Congress and the White House a potential showdown over language on Cuba, which is widely supported in the Congress and among the American public but also facing a Presidential veto threat.  The stage would then be set for 2003, which would provide added opportunities to pass anti-embargo measures, both because there will be more time and because pressures for sustaining the embargo believed to be related to the 2002 Florida gubernatorial election will have subsided.  According to Brian Alexander, executive director at Cuba Policy Foundation, “If we do not see an easing of the embargo in 2002, anti-embargo proponents can still claim victory as Congressional measures to ease the embargo fell short only because of parliamentary processes, not because their policies were defeated.”

 

 

CONGRESSMAN DOOLEY MOVES TO SUNSET HELMS-BURTON LAW:  Representative Cal Dooley (D-CA 20th), on October 11, introduced a bill to sunset the 1996 “Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act (LIBERTAD).”  Action on the bill in 2002 is unlikely, as time runs out on Congress, but the Dooley bill marks an effort to make progress on another of the House Cuba Working Group’s nine-point legislative agenda toward easing the embargo, and is a signal of what is to come in 2003’s 108th Congress. 

 

Known, after its original cosponsors, as Helms-Burton, the 1996 LIBERTAD Act codified elements of the Cuban embargo which had previously existed as executive orders, set conditions on the necessary composition of a Cuban government in order for the United States to lift the embargo, gave Americans the right to sue foreign entities who’s business in Cuba may involve confiscated U.S. properties, and provided the President authority to ban from entry to the United States foreign executives and executives’ families who’s business in Cuba may involve confiscated U.S. properties.  Presidents Clinton and Bush have each repeatedly waived the clause allowing Americans to sue foreign entities.

 

The Dooley bill, if passed, would terminate provisions of Helms-Burton, as well as expire existing rights of Americans to sue foreigners for confiscated properties and lift bans from entry into the United States currently in place against executives and their families because of their business in Cuba.

 

The full-text of the Dooley sunset bill is in the PDF file accompanying this edition of Embargo Update.  Congressman Dooley’s bill (H.R. 5616) currently has 22 cosponsors.  It is anticipated that more cosponsors will be obtained when the bill is reintroduced in 2003.  The bills cosponsors, as of October 14, are:

 

Rep Berman, Howard L. - 10/10/2002

Rep Berry, Marion - 10/10/2002

Rep Blumenauer, Earl - 10/10/2002

Rep DeFazio, Peter A. - 10/10/2002

Rep Delahunt, William D. - 10/10/2002

Rep Emerson, Jo Ann - 10/10/2002

Rep Farr, Sam - 10/10/2002

Rep Flake, Jeff - 10/10/2002

Rep Hooley, Darlene - 10/10/2002

Rep Johnson, Timothy V. - 10/10/2002

Rep Lampson, Nick - 10/10/2002

Rep McGovern, James P. - 10/10/2002

Rep Miller, George - 10/10/2002

Rep Nethercutt, George R., Jr. - 10/10/2002

Rep Paul, Ron - 10/10/2002

Rep Rangel, Charles B. - 10/10/2002

Rep Shays, Christopher - 10/10/2002

Rep Snyder, Vic - 10/10/2002

Rep Solis, Hilda L. - 10/10/2002

Rep Stenholm, Charles W. - 10/10/2002

Rep Thompson, Mike - 10/10/2002

Rep Towns, Edolphus - 10/10/2002

Rep Waxman, Henry A. - 10/10/2002

 

 

FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT CUBA POLICY FOUNDATION.