College leaders have been trying for a year to overturn federal rules established last year that restrict the ability of Americans to study in Cuba. Yet another attempt to gut those rules failed on the floor of the House of Representatives Thursday.
As House members considered a bill to finance the 2006 operations of several federal departments and agencies, Rep. Barbara A. Lee (D-Cal.) offered an amendment that would prohibit the Treasury Department from carrying out regulations it released last June that imposed a set of limits on who was eligible to study abroad in Cuba, and for how long, that college officials said would almost ensure that no one would.
"This is an issue of freedom for our students to travel and gain invaluable experience and educational opportunity that only international study-abroad programs can provide," Lee said in introducing her amendment Thursday. The House rejected the amendment by a vote of 233 to 187.
The House approved a similar amendment by voice vote last year, but the measure was stripped from the 2005 spending bill at the White House's urging during negotiations over a compromise between the House and Senate measures.
Jerry Guidera, operations director for the Center for Cross-Cultural Study, which encourages study abroad in Spain and Argentina in addition to Cuba, said advocates for Cuban-American exchanges were increasingly concluding that "legislation is probably not going to get us where we want to go," he said. "It most likely will require litigation."
The 2006 appropriations measure to which Lee tried to attach her amendment on Cuba, H.R. 3058, was approved overwhelmingly Thursday evening. Of note to higher education, it would provide $7.5 million in funds for the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, which President Bush has proposed eliminating.