The House Foreign Affairs Committee canceled markup of H.R. 4645 dealing with Cuba travel and trade that was scheduled for Wednesday. Chairman Howard Berman, D-Calif., says that a decision by House leaders that Wednesday would be the last day Congress is in session prior to the mid-term elections forced him to postpone a committee vote on the Travel Restriction Reform and Export Enhancement Act. A close vote was expected.
Berman's announcement drew a mixed reaction from ag lobbyists. According to Chandler Goule of the National Farmers Union Berman told a pro-Cuba trade coalition last week that he would rather cancel the vote rather than lose it because that would make it ten times more difficult to ever get the bill done.
Goule thought the votes where there to report the legislation out of committee. The American Farm Bureau's Chris Garza also thought the votes were there.
"I consider this a missed opportunity, but obviously this Congress isn't done yet," Garza said. "Hopefully we'll have a chance to deal with this issue in the lame duck."
The Cuba travel and trade language authored by House Agriculture Committee Chair Collin Peterson, D-Minn, and Representative Jerry Moran, R-Kan., would remove current restrictions on Americans traveling to Cuba and lift cash-in-advance and third country bank requirements for U.S. farm exports to the island nation.
In a statement, Berman said he was postponing consideration of the bill until a time when the committee will be able to hold what he called "the robust and uninterrupted debate this important issue deserves."