A "sit-in" by Democratic lawmakers on Capitol Hill to push for gun control legislation, forced a delay of votes on various proposals related to Cuba that was included in a draft budget for financial services and other government spending slated to before the House of Representatives Wednesday night.
Earlier in the day, Democratic lawmakers led by John Lewis began a protest that continued through the wee hours on Thursday and forced Republican leaders to abandon plans to discuss a proposed bill containing amendments and provisions that would further chip away at the U.S. embargo against Cuba as well as strengthen current sanctions.
The House is now in recess through July 5, when voting procedures resume. But the draft budget for financial services — which contains the Cuba-related measures — may not be the priority, said a source in Congress. The delay could halt "the momentum" of those seeking to relax the embargo, the source said.
Last week, efforts to boost Congressional action to relax the embargo obtained a partial victory. The Senate Appropriations Committee, in their own version of the budget for the financial services and general government expenses for 2017, approved two amendments to eliminate prohibitions on travel to Cuba and allow the extension of private credits to companies on the island for the purchase of U.S. agricultural products.
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On Tuesday, during an evening vote, the House Rules Committee green-lighted the inclusion of two similar amendments, presented by Republican Reps. Rick Crawford and Mark Sanford, that was included in the draft version of the budget bill.
The final vote on the bill was to happen between Wednesday and Thursday, which includes provisions to restrict authorized travel to Cuba, prohibit "trafficking" of properties confiscated by the Cuban government that belonged to U.S. citizens and ban transactions with companies controlled by the Cuban military. GAESA, a military conglomerate, currently controls nearly 60% of the Cuban economy.
During the sit-in, House President Paul Ryan finally took control of the chamber late Wednesday to force a vote on a $1 billion emergency aid package to combat the zika virus, which was ultimately approved after 3 a.m.
The proposals on Cuba must now wait until after the legislative recess.