A Look Back at the 111th Congress

Friday, December 24, 2010
As the 111th Congress (finally) adjourned last night, here's a chronological look back at U.S.-Cuba legislative news items (and misguided predictions):

They didn't waste any time. While most of the nation focused on the stimulus bill winding through Congress, nine representatives introduced a bill calling for an end to the 46-year-old ban on travel to Cuba -- Sun-Sentinel, February 9, 2009

"I think there's sufficient votes in both the House (of Representatives) and the Senate to finally get it passed," Democratic Senator Byron Dorgan said at a news conference -- Reuters, March 31, 2009

After years of frustration, backers of a softer Cuba policy think their moment has come -- St. Petersburg Times, April 1, 2009

"I don't want to give you a time frame, but I'm certain it will come to the floor, and we will have a vote, and I believe we will have a significant number of cosponsors," U.S. Rep. Bill Delahunt -- St. Petersburg Times, April 2, 2009

As the power of the Cuban lobby fades, broader considerations are gaining importance. I asked Rep. Bill Delahunt, a Massachusetts Democrat who cochairs the House's Cuba Working Group, about the Cuba lobby's ebbing influence. "We now have people on our side of the issue who are saying, 'We support candidates who have a different view in terms of what the relationship ought to be,'" he said -- U.S. News and World Report, April 14, 2009

As an observer of American trade policy, I will wager that the farm lobby wins this battle. US agricultural exports to Cuba averaged more than $350 million a year between 2004 and 2006 before hitting $691 million last year -- "Farm Lobby Versus Cuba Lobby," MyDD, May 4, 2009

The U.S. Congress will most likely lift a five-decades-old embargo on Cuba before the end of 2010, a senior Democratic lawmaker [Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel] said Tuesday -- Reuters, May 6 2009

Legislation to end a ban on Americans traveling to Cuba has enough support in the U.S. House of Representatives to win approval by year-end, said Representative Sam Farr, a California Democrat -- Bloomberg, September 21, 2009

The travel ban to Cuba may be one step closer to being lifted. A bill intended to end a ban on travel to Cuba by United States citizens may have enough votes to pass the House by the end of the year, a representative told the Bloomberg news service -- New York Times, October 4, 2009

Delahunt "has a pretty impressive list of sponsors. That bill looks good in the House,' said a former Bush administration Cuba expert. "Delahunt will pass the House,"' added an Obama administration official. Both asked for anonymity so they could speak frankly about the topic -- The Miami Herald, October 12, 2009

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Richard Lugar (R-IN) and House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman (D-CA) have jointly written a compelling case to end the travel ban for all Americans desiring to go to Cuba -- Huffington Post, November 17, 2009

Berman says those who support lifting the ban have their best chance in years to get rid of it, thanks to Democratic control of the White House and Congress and backing from a wide range of business, agricultural and other groups. He says the House may act on legislation by the spring -- Washington Post, November 20, 2009

Minnesota Democrat Collin Peterson is lending his heft as House Agriculture Committee chairman to end the travel ban to Cuba -- Minnesota Star-Tribune, February 24, 2010

U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan said he will bring a bill to lift the ban on travel to Cuba to the Senate floor this summer and that more than 60 Senators will vote for it -- Bloomberg, March 25, 2010

The U.S. House of Representatives may pass a bill next month that would cut restrictions on agricultural exports to Cuba and lift a ban on travel to the island, the measure's sponsor [Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson] said -- Bloomberg, March 31, 2010

"It's just a question of 'when,' it's not a question of 'if,' at this point," Delahunt said -- National Journal, April 5, 2010

Business associations are raising the lobbying stakes on legislation that would remove the American travel ban and boost U.S. farm sales to Cuba -- The Hill, June 29, 2010

'An unprecedented coalition of agriculture, business, religious and social organizations have endorsed (the bill), and today's vote demonstrates that Congress is ready to change our nation's approach on this issue,' [Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson] added -- IPS, June 30, 2010

A bipartisan pair of senators said Thursday they have the votes in the Senate to lift the longstanding U.S. ban on travel to Cuba. Sens. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) and Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) said they believe they have the 60 votes necessary to overcome a filibuster and lift the travel ban to the communist-held nation south of Florida -- The Hill, July 1, 2010

Traveling to Cuba may soon become a reality for Americans. Yes, we have heard this before, but this time it seems it could actually happen -- NY Daily News, July 4, 2010

Senator Byron Dorgan, co-sponsor of a bill to lift a ban on U.S. citizens traveling to Cuba, said both houses of Congress will pass the legislation this year -- Bloomberg, July 16, 2010

Kirby Jones, a longtime consultant with U.S. corporations, organizations and media wanting to do business in and with Cuba, told me that "in the 35 years that I've been following this issue, I've never seen Congress so close and so active in pursuing a change in Cuba policy. Progress has never been this close. We're somewhere between 205 to 210 votes, and that's very close -- Politics Daily, May 23, 2010

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi indicated recently if Berman's committee approved the bill, it could be brought to the House floor either before or after the November midterm elections -- UPI, September 29, 2010

Advocates of easing restrictions on travel and trade with Cuba have not given up on legislation this year, the chairman of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee said on Monday -- Reuters, September 31, 2010

A number of business associations are planning a lobbying blitz during the lame-duck session to repeal the U.S. travel ban to Cuba -- The Hill, October 6, 2010

And finally:

Legislation eliminating a longstanding travel ban to Cuba is dead in this Congress, several senior Democrats said this week -- The Hill, December 2, 2010