May 14,2003

Baucus Comments on Lifting Cuba Travel Ban

I want to begin by thanking my colleagues, in both the House and the Senate. Inparticular, I want to thank our colleagues from the House Cuba Working Group for their tirelessefforts and leadership in the fight to bring sanity to U.S. policy towards Cuba. Theirestablishment of a Working Group has served as a model for our efforts in the Senate.

I also want to thank Senators Enzi and Dorgan for their leadership to end the travel ban.It's been a pleasure to work with them and with Members from the House. And now, we are allhere together - Republicans and Democrats, the House and the Senate - behind a single bill. Andthat, I think, is one of the most important messages of the day: We are united and workingtogether to end the travel ban as soon as possible.

An overwhelming majority of Americans support this policy. Certainly the people ofMontana do - that was the clear message I heard when I met with people in Great Falls a coupleof weeks ago. Most Senators and Congressmen also want to ease the travel restrictions. And ourbill is supported by a broad range of organizations - from businesses and farmers, to humanrights groups, as well as the Cuban dissidents themselves.

This legislation could not come at a more important time. The incidents of the past twomonths - the arrests, the executions, even the new travel regulations - demonstrate the trulydangerous conditions under which the Cuban people live. They also highlight the dangerous roleU.S. policy plays in provoking these conditions. The crisis should serve as a catalyst for a newand genuine debate in Washington over U.S. policy. And more than anything today, that is whatI want to ask for: a genuine debate on this issue - and an up-or-down vote.

I have asked the Senate leadership for time on the floor to debate Cuba, and this bill inparticular. This issue merits an open discussion, and I hope we will have the opportunity to doso this year.