Cuba Embargo Could Face House Vote This Week

By Jim Burns | July 7, 2008 | 8:19 PM EDT

( - Legislation designed to ease the U.S. embargo against Cuba could face House action this week but insiders say they don't know when.

The measure calls for the sale of food and medicine to Cuba as long as the deals are not financed by U.S. banks or secured with U.S. government-backed credits. Financing by third country banks or cash deals would be allowed.

The legislation under consideration also bans imports from Cuba and prevents future presidents from expanding American travel to Cuba without Congressional consent.

One published report said the vote on the bill would come up on Monday, but a spokesperson for House Republican Leader Dick Armey says that isn't so.

A spokesperson for House Republican Leader Dick Armey (R-TX) said, "The bill is part of a (House) agricultural conference report and that report has not been filed yet." Michelle Davis was uncertain as to when that report would be filed.

Insiders say the deal on lifting the embargo that was reached by House and Senate negotiators could still fall apart because of opposition from embargo opponents, such as Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL), who says it doesn't go far enough against the Castro government.

But Rep. George Nethercutt (R-WA) believes that the U.S. embargo against Cuba should be eased because it would benefit American farmers. Both Diaz-Balart and Nethercutt are the key players in the House negotiations on the measure.

Nethercutt is in a tough re-election battle in a heavily agricultural district in Washington State. He not only wants food and medicine sold to Cuba but to Iran, Libya, North Korea and Sudan as well.

Diaz-Balart, not facing any Democrat opposition, likes the agreement he reached with Nethercutt because it would tighten the travel rules, while at the same time making it very difficult for Cuba to actually buy food or medicine from the United States.

Diaz-Balart wants either tighter restrictions against Cuba or no change in the restrictions at all.

Florida is a vote rich state for both parties in the upcoming presidential elections because Cuban-Americans in the state are a political force, especially in the wake of the Elian Gonzalez case.

Congressional leaders are trying to avoid a fight over Cuban sanctions out of fears that such a battle could tip the presidential election in Florida. Both Vice President Al Gore and Republican George W. Bush have stated publicly they support the Cuban embargo.

Lawmakers are hurriedly clearing out legislation in hopes of adjourning on Friday, October 6th, but it doesn't look like that adjournment date is going to be met.