Politics & Government

Plan tightening Cuba travel dropped from budget bill

Congressional leaders dropped both a measure to restrict Cuban-American travel and remittances to the island and another to make it easier for Cuba to buy U.S. goods, putting some of the final touches Thursday on a compromise $1 trillion spending bill.

The agreement stripped a measure by Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-South Florida, that would once again have limited “family reunification” trips to once every three years, capped remittances at $1,200 per year, and tightened the definition of “family,” said Congressional aides.

In exchange, the Congressional leadership also agreed to drop a measure by Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, R-Mo., that would have eased a requirement that Cuba pay cash and in advance when buying U.S. goods permissible under the embargo, according to the aides.

The Cuba issue was one of the last hurdles blocking consideration of the government spending bill. If the bitterly partisan Congress does not approve it by midnight Friday, major parts of the government would have to shut down.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky., agreed to the compromise on Cuba in exchange for a promise from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, to allow the spending bill to be voted on Friday.

House and Senate conferees had reached a compromise this week on a version of the bill, but Reid, responding to White House concerns, would not release it until the Cuba provisions and other issues, including some abortion regulations, were ironed out.

If the Rogers-Reid understanding falls through, the House Republican majority could push its own version of the spending bill, which would still retain the Cuba language, according to media reports Thursday.

It was not immediately clear if House Republicans had enough votes to approve the unilateral version, or how the four Cuban-Americans in the House would vote. The three Republicans and one Democrat include Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-South Florida, powerful chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

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