Mere weeks after a group of senators introduced a bill to ease Cuba travel restrictions, another bipartisan, Cuba-related bill has been introduced in the Senate with an even loftier goal: lifting the Cuban trade embargo.
S. 491 was read yesterday by sponsor Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) and is being called the Freedom to Export to Cuba Act. It would remove the legal barriers that prevent Americans from conducting business in Cuba.
"It's time to turn the page on our Cuba policy," said Klobuchar in a statement. "Fifty years of the embargo have not secured our interests in Cuba and have disadvantaged American businesses by restricting commerce with a market of 11 million people just 90 miles from our shores. There are many issues in our relationship with Cuba that must be addressed, but this legislation to lift the embargo will begin to open up new opportunities for American companies, boost job creation and exports, and help improve the quality of life for the Cuban people."
The bill, however, does not eliminate the human rights laws created by the passing of the Helms-Burton Act in 1996. Essentially, Helms-Burton says that only an act of Congress can completely lift the embargo, and only if Cuba meets certain criteria: holding free and fair elections, releasing political prisoners and guaranteeing the rights of workers and free speech.
S. 491 has been referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs.
Joining Klobuchar were Sens. Mike Enzi (R-Wyoming), Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan), Jeff Flake, (R-Arizona), Patrick Leahy, (D-Vermont), and Dick Durbin, (D-Illinois). Interestingly, Sens. Flake, Enzi, Durbin and Leahy are all sponsors of S. 299, a bill introduced earlier in February that calls for the elimination of the constraints on American citizens who wish to travel to Cuba as tourists.
Nearly every Congressional session includes a bill that calls for the end of the Cuban embargo, both in the Senate and the House of Representatives. And while many of these mostly symbolic bills die before gaining any real political traction, this newest bill could be pushed through committee given the fact that Cuba is a bit of a hot-button issue right now and some high-ranking senators have signed on to it.