(House of Representatives - January 05, 2017)

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[Pages H175-H176]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []

                             TRAVEL TO CUBA

  The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Banks of Indiana). Under the Speaker's 
announced policy of January 3, 2017, the gentleman from South Carolina 
(Mr. Sanford) is recognized for 60 minutes as the designee of the 
majority leader.
  Mr. SANFORD. Mr. Speaker, I rise this evening to talk about a bill 
that Jim McGovern of Massachusetts and I have that we will be offering 
tomorrow. I think it is an important bill from the standpoint of 
advancing and perpetuating this American notion called freedom. It is a 
bill that had 130 sponsors in the last Congress. I am joined on the 
bill by Tom Emmer and Mr. Poe and Mr. Amash as original cosponsors as 
we drop the bill tomorrow. It is quite simply entitled the Freedom to 
Travel to Cuba bill. It does what the name suggests, to lift the 
current restrictions in encumbering Americans' ability to travel to 
  Why is that important?
  I think it is important for a number of different reasons, first of 
which is tied to the basic, fundamental notion of American liberty. 
American liberty is built of many different things. The Supreme Court 
has actually determined that as real as what you choose to wear, what 
you choose to eat, or what you choose to read is this basic, 
fundamental right to travel.
  In the American system, we can travel as we see fit. I can go here, I 
can go there. I am going to visit my grandmother in Des Moines, my 
cousin in Chicago. We choose without government control and without 
government edict where we come and where we go. It is a far cry from 
what we saw in the former Soviet Union where you had to have your 
papers to determine where you could travel.
  I have a map of the globe here. Did you know that you or I could 
travel to any country on this globe except one? You or I could travel 
to North Korea. You or I could travel to Syria. You or I could travel 
to Iran. You or I could travel to Iraq. It may not work out well for 
you, it may not be the best of trips, but you or I could travel without 
government prohibition to any spot on this globe except one, and that 
one is Cuba.
  That may have made sense in 1960. For security reasons in the time of 
the cold war, it may have made sense to have that prohibition in place. 
But the question is: Does it make sense today? I don't think it does 
for a whole variety of reasons.
  One, this is about the basic, fundamental American right of travel as 
we see fit, not as government sees fit.

  Two, this is about the American liberty and this fragile notion of, 
if we don't protect it, government tends to grow. Jefferson talked 
about this theme a long time ago. He talked about the normal course of 
things for government to gain ground and for government to yield. So if 
we don't push back--and this is what the REINS Act was all about--if we 
don't push back about the government edict or laws that have outgrown 
their usefulness, what we are doing is we are allowing government to 
encroach on this fragile notion of liberty.
  Fundamental to the notion of common sense is, if you tried something 
for 50 years and it has not worked, may we not try something different? 
I was here in the 1990s. I signed onto Helms-Burton. But it didn't 
work, and so we asked: Why not try something different?
  What Ronald Reagan proposed at the time of the Iron Curtain was for 
Americans, kids with backpacks, to travel on the other side of that 
curtain. That personal diplomacy, that one-on-one diplomacy, would be 
key in bringing down that wall. That was the notion of engagement.
  So I think this is about saying American policy has been the excuse 
that the Castros have used for 50 years. We have almost the longest-
serving dictatorship in the history of globe there with the Castro 
brothers. What was oftentimes the case is they would blame the 
blockade, the embargo, Americans' inability to travel, whatever was 
going wrong with the country rather than simply addressing the real 
issue. The problem was communism and the way that it encumbers people 
and their hopes and their dreams. We gave them an excuse. So this is 
about pulling back the excuse and trying something different. It is 
about pushing back on a regulation that has not served its purpose.
  Three, this is about engaging because that is part and parcel to 
American liberty. You know, I don't like some of the things that are 
going on in Russia. I don't like some of the things that are going on 
in China. I don't like some of the things that are going on in Vietnam. 
You can pick your country. But what we have chosen, as an American 
policy, is this notion of engagement, that we ultimately are going to 
be able to solve more by engaging with other countries. Again, that is 
why Ronald Reagan embraced it with countries of the former Soviet Union 
in helping to bring down that wall. So this is about

[[Page H176]]

perpetuating the notion of engagement and government regulation.
  We have just passed the REINS Act, which is all about saying if 
something isn't making sense, let's peel it back. Let's not have the 
fourth branch of government going out and perpetuating all kinds of 
regulations without them going through Congress. Yet, with regard to 
travel to Cuba, you have to sign an affidavit as to why you are going 
there. You have to keep receipts for up to 5 years proving where you 
did or didn't spend money. If you fill out a form wrong, you can be 
subject to a $250,000 fine. Is that kind of regulation consistent with 
free travel that we all should enjoy as Americans?
  Finally, I think that this bill is about bringing about change to 
Cuba. My interest is not primarily about Cuba. My interest is about 
American liberty and the need to perpetuate American liberty.
  But one of the offshoots, one of the benefits is about bringing 
change to Cuba. Even the worst detractor of the bill, we are all about 
the same thing, which is bringing more freedom to that country and the 
11 million people that make up that country.
  I think that allowing Americans to go there and to tell folks about 
what you are hearing from your state-run radio station or television 
station is not the truth, here is what is really going on. It is part 
and parcel to bringing about a change in Cuba. It is part and parcel to 
eliminating the excuses that have been used by the communist regime 
there. It is continuing the theme of engagement that we have employed 
for more than 100 years. And most all, it is part and parcel to 
maintain this fragile notion of American liberty which always needs to 
be protected.

                              {time}  2030

  If something has encroached upon American liberty, it is not about a 
tangible result in the here and the now. It needs to be pushed back. 
So, fundamentally, this bill is about those five different things. It 
is for that reason I would ask that viewers talk to their House or 
Senate Member and ask them to sign on to this bill.
  Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.