HAVANA, March 8th A bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill Monday that would remove key parts of the U.S. embargo on Cuba, which has been in place for over six decades.Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who proposed a similar bill in 2021, described the proposal as a way to end the embargo “once and for all.”
“[O]ur bipartisan legislation will turn the page on the failed policy of isolation while creating a new export market and generating economic opportunities for American businesses,” she said in a statement.
Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), one of the bill’s two Republican co-sponsors, said it would “expand market opportunities for U.S. producers by allowing them to compete on a level playing field with other countries.”
The proposal, which failed to get a hearing when introduced in 2021, would end one of Washington’s most controversial foreign policy practices. The Cold War-era embargo has cost the Cuban economy at least $130 billion over the past six decades, according to the UN.
Though a 2000 law allows some U.S.-Cuba agricultural trade, experts argue that the sanctions regime is a primary reason for Havana’s ongoing economic woes.
Late last year, the United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to condemn the embargo, with only the United States and Israel voting against the resolution.
U.S. allies and foes alike have criticized the embargo for its comprehensive provisions, including measures that make it difficult for other countries to do business with Cuba.
William LeoGrande, a professor at American University and a leading expert on U.S.-Cuba relations, praised the bill’s contents as “essentially lifting the embargo” but said the proposal “really doesn’t have any chance” of passing.
“It’s symbolic,” LeoGrande said. “It’s staking out a position.”
In the Senate, the bill would have to make it past Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), a leading Cuba hawk and the current chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. And chances that a Republican-controlled House would even take up the bill are vanishingly small.
It is also unclear whether President Joe Biden would sign the bill if passed. Despite early indications that he would pursue changes in Cuba policy, Biden largely avoided the issue during his first two years in office.
Most other centrist Democrats have done the same, largely due to concerns that such a move would lose voters in Florida’s sizable Cuban-American community.
But, as Florida becomes increasingly Republican, LeoGrande argues that presidential leadership could help persuade centrists to drop their opposition, as demonstrated by former President Barack Obama’s efforts to normalize relations with Havana.
“Obama changed the conversation about Cuba by simply saying, ‘this policy doesn’t make sense anymore,’” LeoGrande said.
Unfortunately, he added, Biden “shows absolutely no inclination to exercise that kind of leadership on this issue.”
The White House did not respond to a request for comment about the bill.