Politics

Anderson Cooper takes down AZ State Senator Over SB-1062

Feb. 25, 2014, 3:37 a.m.

Mid­west­ern law­makers made a new push Tues­day for le­gis­la­tion that would ease U.S. travel to Cuba and re­move meas­ures that the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion put in place to make it harder to ex­port U.S. ag­ri­cul­tur­al products to Cuba.

House Ag­ri­cul­ture Chair­man Col­lin Peterson, Rep. Le­onard Boswell, D-Iowa, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., are lead­ing the ef­fort to get the le­gis­la­tion on the floor, ar­guing it has strong chances of suc­ceed­ing once it is out of com­mit­tee.

The House Ag­ri­cul­ture Com­mit­tee passed Peterson’s Cuba bill this sum­mer, but the House For­eign Af­fairs Com­mit­tee, which also has jur­is­dic­tion, has not ac­ted. The Sen­ate has not ad­vanced the com­pan­ion bill that was in­tro­duced by Klobuchar and Sen. Mike En­zi, R-Wyo.

Ad­voc­ates for eas­ing re­la­tions with Cuba say there are bet­ter chances of pas­sage now, after Cuba an­nounced this sum­mer that it would re­lease polit­ic­al pris­on­ers.

At a news con­fer­ence with the Na­tion­al Farm­ers Uni­on Tues­day, Klobuchar said the bill is simple to im­ple­ment be­cause it would end the re­quire­ment that Cubans used a bank in a third coun­try to pro­cess pay­ment. It would also end the ban on U.S. travel to Cuba.

Peterson urged NFU mem­bers to lobby law­makers on the House For­eign Af­fairs Com­mit­tee to pass the meas­ure. Peterson said that House For­eign Af­fairs Chair­man Howard Ber­man needs only a few more votes but will not hold a markup un­less he has the votes to pass it.

“There is a lot of money spread around on the oth­er side of this is­sue,” Peterson said, re­fer­ring to cam­paign dona­tions from groups that op­pose closer re­la­tions with Cuba un­less the gov­ern­ment changes.

A Ber­man aide did not re­turn a call seek­ing in­form­a­tion on plans for a markup.

NFU Pres­id­ent Ro­ger John­son said his mem­bers would make the Cuba bill a lob­by­ing pri­or­ity dur­ing their vis­it to Wash­ing­ton be­cause U.S. sales to Cuba have slipped. John­son said the tough­er fin­an­cing rules the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion put in place have dis­cour­aged sales be­cause they raise the Cuban gov­ern­ment’s trans­ac­tion costs. Al­though Con­gress and the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion have lif­ted some of the Bush-era pro­vi­sions that make pay­ment meth­ods more com­plic­ated, John­son said that the bill would provide cer­tainty. He called the cur­rent situ­ation “a self-im­posed em­bargo on sales.”

Ac­cord­ing to the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Eco­nom­ic Coun­cil, U.S. ag­ri­cul­tur­al ex­ports to Cuba for Janu­ary to May were $182 mil­lion com­pared with $278 mil­lion in the same peri­od in 2009, a de­crease of about 35 per­cent.

But John Kavu­lich, the seni­or policy ad­viser for the coun­cil, said the Bush-era fin­ance re­stric­tions were not to blame. He at­trib­uted the de­crease to Cuba’s eco­nom­ic prob­lems; its lack of for­eign cur­rency; and its grow­ing re­la­tion­ship with oth­er trad­ing part­ners such as China, Brazil, Ar­gen­tina, Vi­et­nam, Mex­ico, Canada, Rus­sia and Ir­an.

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