Democrats and Republicans Join Forces to Advance U.S.-Cuba Relations
With this week marking one year since President Obama announced a new U.S. policy toward Cuba, Congressman Jim McGovern joined Republicans and Democrats today in a letter to Speaker Ryan and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi to announce a new bipartisan coalition to build on that historic progress and advance U.S.-Cuba relations.
McGovern has been a leading voice in Congress in the push for normalizing U.S.-Cuba relations, joining Secretary Kerry at the U.S. Embassy opening in Havana last summer, and this bipartisan Cuba Working Group will address a wide range of issues with growing support from both parties in Congress.
“Americans are ready for a 21st century approach to Cuba and one year after President Obama’s historic announcement of the new U.S.-Cuba policy, I am proud to join my colleagues in this bipartisan push to build on that progress,” Congressman Jim McGovern said. “Standing with Secretary Kerry at the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Havana last summer, I was inspired to see Americans and Cubans of all backgrounds united and ready to end the outdated and ineffective Cold War policy that divided us for so many years.
“With our two nations working together, we can create new opportunities for American businesses, increase travel and exchange, and support efforts in Cuba to advance political and economic reforms and promote human rights,” McGovern added. “Working with Democrats and Republicans in this bipartisan group, I look forward to addressing these and many other issues as we seize this moment and continue to advance U.S.-Cuba relations.”
In the letter to Speaker Paul Ryan and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi announcing the group’s formation, the steering committee members said:
“Increasingly, the American people are indicating their desire for a new, more pragmatic approach to Cuba. More people are traveling from the U.S. to Cuba, more businesses are looking for opportunity on the island, and more sectors are eager for trade. The bi-partisan Cuba Working Group will promote a U.S.-Cuba policy that reflects the interests of the American people in engagement with Cuba.”
The letter concludes, “Our goal is to raise the level of understanding inside of Congress for the need to build a new policy framework for U.S.-Cuban relations.”
In addition to Congressman McGovern, the bipartisan Cuba Working Group steering committee members include: Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Rick Crawford (R-AR), Tom Emmer (R-MN), Reid Ribble (R-WI), Kathy Castor (D-CA), Sam Farr (D-CA), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Ted Poe (R-TX), and Rosa Delauro (D-CT).
Members of the Cuba Working Group are supporters of one or more key pieces of legislation introduced in 2015, with Republicans as the lead sponsors. Taken together, these bills repeal economic and travel restrictions and would effectively eliminate the U.S. embargo on Cuba:
· The Cuba Trade Act of 2015 would allow U.S. businesses in the private sector to trade with Cuba without restrictions;
· The Cuba Digital and Telecommunications Advancement Act (Cuba DATA Act) would allow U.S. telecommunications and internet companies to provide services to the island;
· The Cuba Agriculture Exports Act would allow for U.S. investment in privately owned Cuban agriculture businesses;
· The Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act of 2015 would allow all U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba.
Senate committees have passed significant legislation to lift the travel ban on Cuba and widen trade with bipartisan support. The House of Representatives has been more reticent to move U.S. policy forward, making this Cuba working group even more important.
Increasing trade, travel and investment in Cuba will not only open new markets and create jobs in both countries, but promote human rights and better hemispheric relations.
Public opinion polls over the past year have shown an increasing support to end the Cuban trade embargo and change course on U.S.-Cuba relations. The most recent Pew poll showed 73% of the American people, including 59% of Republicans favor ending the trade embargo.
The bi-partisan Congressional Working Group will now take leadership to match the growing public support for a new U.S. policy towards Cuba.