The budget bill for 2017 financial services and general government spending has been approved in the House of Representatives with several clauses that strengthen sanctions on Cuba.
The clauses limit "people to people" exchange trips, prohibit the use of funds for trafficking in confiscated property, restrict financial transactions with entities tied to the Cuban military and forbid the granting of trademark rights and intellectual property with businesses or properties confiscated by the Cuban government.
The strengthened restrictions are included in the text of the budget bill that was approved last week after two amendments to remove restrictions on agricultural exports and travel to Cuba were withdrawn by their sponsors — Representatives Rick Crawford and Mark Sanford, respectively.
Sanford withdrew his amendment after acknowledging he did not have the support of Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. Crawford also withdrew his amendment but only after receiving a commitment by the House leadership representatives from Florida to start looking for a long-term solution to remove restrictions on cash payments for the purchase of U.S. agricultural products.
"I've gotten commitments from leadership and my friends from Florida that there will be a proper path forward," Crawford said during the plenary session.
Meanwhile, Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart confirmed that agreement was reached with Crawford “...to come up with a solution that meets the needs of our farmers ... but that does not jeopardize our national security or support the Castro regime, its military or its intelligence services."
Diaz-Balart refuted reports that Crawford’s amendment had enough support to pass.
"Once again, the groups allied with the interests of the Cuban dictatorship who for years have been saying that there is no support for sanctions, have been unmasked in the House’s floor," he said.
Following the announcement of the agreement, the organization Engage Cuba, which lobbies to lift the embargo, had issued a statement claiming that "the momentum for changing our Cuba policies has shifted, and even the most outspoken opponents of lifting theCuban embargo have realized that their position is no longer tenable."
Diaz-Balart refuted that claim: "There is bipartisan support in the House to strengthen sanctions against the regime and reject the policy of appeasement of the dictatorship," he said, adding that the passage of the budget bill "contains multiple clauses to strengthen sanctions."