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Travel Industry Beware of Congressional Attempts to Punish Service to Cuba

Tuesday, the Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation released the FY 2016 Department of Transportation, Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill which will be considered by the subcommittee tomorrow.  The legislation includes provisions which would, in essence, bar the U.S. government from recertifying any airline or cruise line if it were to include travel to Cuba.  This is one of the first attempts we have seen in Congress to try to counter President Obama’s efforts to normalize relations with Cuba.

The Cuba-related language was supported by the Chairman of the Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee, Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), who is a Cuban American and who strongly opposes normalization of relations between the U.S. and Cuba.

Specifically, provisions in the House draft would prevent federal funds from being used to advance new scheduled air transportation originating in the U.S. if such flights would land on or pass through any property that was “confiscated” by the Cuban government.   Additional language would prevent funds from being used for licenses or operating certificates for vessels docked within 7 miles of a port on property that has been confiscated by Cuba within the previous 180 days of the passage of the act.

This proposed language will be opposed by many in Congress who agree with the President’s position and would like to further relax trade embargo and travel restrictions to Cuba.  The House bill must pass the subcommittee before it will be voted on by the full Appropriations Committee before it faces a vote in the full House of Representatives.  We will continue to closely monitor this and other trade-related developments as the appropriations process continues.