Vote to ease Cuba travel rules likely to go nowhere

Campaign News | Thursday, 23 September 2004

Democrats pass amendment but Bush will use his veto

September 23, WASHINGTON - A day after moving to nullify the Bush administration's new rules restricting family travel to Cuba, the House voted Wednesday to remove barriers to agriculture sales and student exchanges in the island nation.

But, as in past years, actions by the House and Senate to ease decades of economic and social sanctions imposed on Cuba are expected to make little headway against an administration determined not to make life easier for Fidel Castro's government.

The White House has threatened to veto a $90-billion Transportation and Treasury Department spending bill if it contains any language to weaken sanctions. The bill, for fiscal 2005 programs, passed 397-12.

U.S. Rep. Ernest Istook, R-Okla., chairman of the subcommittee overseeing the spending bill, suggested that the Cuba provisions will evaporate when the House and Senate come together to write a final version of the bill. The White House is unequivocal about the veto threat, he said, and "my responsibility ... is to produce a bill that will pass into law."

For years, during the Clinton and Bush administrations, Democrats and free-trade Republicans have, with little success, questioned the effectiveness of trying to end the 45-year-old Castro regime through a policy of isolation.

On Tuesday, the House voted 225-174 to approve an amendment by U.S. Rep. Jim Davis, D-Fla., that blocks another rule allowing Cuban Americans to visit family in Cuba only once every three years. Davis' provision would restore the old system allowing one visit a year.

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