WASHINGTON -- Efforts to revive travel to Cuba died in Congress as
lawmakers opposed to the plan succeeded in affirming the existing
restrictions on travel to Cuba.
House and Senate members conferring over an agriculture bill,
which now awaits President Clinton's signature, agreed to ease
certain trade restrictions with Cuba, but in doing so, stripped out
language that would have opened regular tourism to Cuba.
The bill makes clear that the "secretary of treasury, or any
other Federal official, may not authorize" travel to Cuba "for
That dashed the efforts of Rep. Marshall Sanford (R-S.C.), a
member of the House International Relations Committee, and Sen.
Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.), of the Senate Foreign Relations
Committee, who separately sponsored bills to relax the travel
Language from Sanford's bill, approved by the House, originally
was folded into the agriculture bill before conferees striped it
Sanford and Dodd contend that the longstanding travel embargo to
Cuba has done little to topple President Fidel Castro's regime, so
it should be lifted.
But the opposition argues any revenue derived from tourism only
would extend Castro's rule by providing new funding for his
"A small number of individuals in Congress may have succeeded in
hijacking the democratic process" by stripping out language from
the Sanford bill, said Dodd, during comments on the Senate
In an interview with Travel Weekly, Sanford was equally
"There is a lot of irony in using Communist-style tactics to
circumvent the will of the House on travel to Cuba," Sanford
"The vote of the majority didn't matter," he added. "What
mattered was what happened in a smoke-filled room, which is what
happens in Communist countries like Cuba."
Sanford predicted the issue would be revisited if the Democrats
wrest control of the Congress from the Republicans in the next
In other news, President Clinton was expected to sign a
transportation appropriations bill (H.R. 4475) that provides $1
million funding for the National Commission to Ensure Consumer
Information and Choice in the Airline Industry.
The nine-member commission emerged out of legislation crafted by
ASTA and the Coalition for Travel Industry Parity.
At least one agent and one airline representative will be named
to the commission, which is expected to deliver a report on the
airline industry to Congress after six months.
The same appropriations bill includes language that keeps the
Transportation Department from instituting new "hours of service"
rules, pending further research.
The American Bus Association and the National Tour Association
had lobbied against the rule changes, which they said were
generally geared for truckers.
They said that if the controversial new rules mandating specific
rest times for motorcoach drivers had been adopted, tour operators
would have had to significantly extend or shorten vacation packages
and possibly increase tour prices in order to accommodate drivers'
mandatory rest times.