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Senate votes to lift Cuba trade sanctions

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Senate has approved a compromise spending bill for agriculture that eases trade sanctions on Cuba for the first time in 40 years.

Congress

Reflecting changing U.S. attitudes toward the Caribbean island, the legislation, which was approved 86-8, allows the sale of food and medicine to Cuba but prohibits U.S. public or private financial institutions from financing those sales.

Havana will be allowed to purchase food and medicine from the U.S. with the help of third-party financiers. Under certain humanitarian circumstances, the U.S. president may waive the ban and allow direct U.S. financing.

The bill also codifies a ban on U.S. travel to Cuba, which takes away a presidential prerogative to determine the travel restrictions.

President Clinton has not threatened to veto the bill, but does not like some of its provisions, including the travel restrictions on Cuba, and restrictions on countries from which prescription drugs could be reimported.

Congress is moving painfully slowly toward adjournment, keeping just one step ahead of a major confrontation with the White House. Republican leaders met privately earlier Wednesday and one participant told CNN that there is no plan to hurry things up or make concessions to the president.

Stevens
Sen. Ted Stevens  

"There is absolute resistance to further yielding to the president's demands," said Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, of the Republican attitude.

In fact, Republicans are blaming Clinton for refusing to consider compromises on his spending priorities.

Clinton will come to Capitol Hill on Thursday to excoriate Republicans for not finishing their work in a timely way and to underscore Democratic spending priorities, including more federal funds for public schools.

According to White House officials and congressional Democrats, Clinton will make it clear he will not sign any more one-week extensions to keep the government in operation. He will only a sign a continuing resolution of a few days' duration. The current resolution expires at midnight Friday.

Daschle
Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle  

"The only leverage we have is the [continuing resolution]," said Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-South Dakota. Daschle said he was prepared to work through the weekend to force the Republican majority to negotiate compromises on the issues holding up the final spending bills.

Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Mississippi, said Congress will likely take up a continuing resolution Thursday that keeps the government running through next Tuesday or Wednesday.

Only three of the 13 annual spending bills for the fiscal year, which began October 1, have been signed into law -- but seven others are in the pipeline and should reach the president's desk within days. But there are a number of outstanding issues on policy and at this late date both sides seem to be digging in their heels.

 
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Wednesday, October 18, 2000


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