Thursday, October 29, 2009

Foreign Minister Rodriguez response to Ambassador Rice

Foreign Affairs Minister Rodríguez Parrilla’s reply to the speech given by the U.S. representative

I feel obligated to respond to the speeches given by the United States, the European Union, and Norway.

I should say to the European Union that Cuba recognizes absolutely no moral authority to dictate models or give advice on the matter of democracy. I want to remind it of its complicity in the acts of torture that occurred at Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib and reiterate that as long as it maintains a two-faced and hypocritical position, it will not enjoy any credibility.

Mrs. Rice, who unfortunately is not here in the room at the moment, started out by saying "here we go again." With that phrase she recognized what 17 representatives from the United States have come to do in the past.

I respect her opinions and recognize that her career is totally distinct from that of a neoconservative like Bolton; but she has had the sad task of defending the policy of the blockade here, which began, according to a classified memo, on April 6, 1960 with the professed aim of causing hunger, desperation, and discouragement among the Cuban people.

The only remnant of the Cold War that has been discussed here is precisely the blockade. Lift the blockade and that remnant will disappear.

Mr. President:

Cuba is a democracy that is closer to Lincoln’s principles, with a government of the people, with the people and for the people, than the plutocracy or government of the rich that operates in this country.

Here, the U.S. representative described as dissidents or political prisoners those who in reality are agents of a foreign power, mercenaries paid by the U.S. government. If they want to talk about political prisoners, they should free the five Cuba antiterrorist heroes, subjected to cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment in U.S. prisons.

Mr. President:

Mrs. Rice has said that the word genocide is inappropriate for describing the blockade. I quote Article 2, paragraphs b) and c) of the 1948 Geneva Convention against the Crime of Genocide.

Paragraph b) "Genocide is causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group," referring to a human group.

Paragraph c) "Genocide is deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part."

I recommend that the State Department study that Convention better.

The blockade against Cuba is a unilateral and criminal policy that also has to be lifted unilaterally. It is not reasonable, just, or possible to wait for gestures from Cuba for an end to the criminal application of measures against the Cuban people, including its children and elderly, from the examples that I have described here.

The United States should lift the blockade and it should lift it now; first, because Cuba is not blockading the United States or occupying any portion of its territory with a military base, nor is it discriminating against its citizens or businesses; and, in the second place, it should do so because it is in the best interest of the United States itself and the will of U.S. citizens.

A free flow of information was addressed. Lift the ban on U.S. citizens to travel freely to Cuba, respect their right to freedom to travel. Lift the blockade against Cuba in the areas of technology and information; permit better connectivity with our country; export software and information technology to Cuba and there could be advancement in this field.

Mrs. Rice has mentioned constructive advances. It’s true that there have been a few steps in the correct direction, strictly limited to the relations between Cubans that live in the United States and their native country, but they have nothing to do with, nor do they mean or signify, any loosening of the blockade. They are correct steps but extremely limited and insufficient.

The blockade is not a bilateral question. Its extraterritorial application has been clearly shown with the many examples presented.

Mrs. Rice has mentioned the proposal to continue having exchanges and dialogue between the two countries, which had been proposed many years ago by Commander in Chief Fidel Castro and publicly reiterated several times by President Raúl Castro. If that is what the United States desires, it should respond to the proposal of an agenda for bilateral dialogue, presented by Cuba to that government on July 17, 2009.

Mr. President:

Mrs. Susan Rice said in August at New York University that "the United States leads by example, acknowledges mistakes, corrects course when necessary, forges strategies in partnership and treats others with respect."

She also said during that speech: "we are demonstrating that the United States is willing to listen, respect differences, and consider new ideas." It’s deeply surprising to me that Mrs. Rice has had to say the opposite this morning.

Thank you very much.

Translated by Granma International

State Department Spokesman on Embargo Vote

QUESTION: Speaking of the UN, the General Assembly had its annual vote today on the Cuba embargo. You got two people to join you, two countries. Can you remind – (a) remind of what those two countries are, and (b) tell us what you think of the vote?

MR. KELLY: I think one was Palau, Matt. Who was the other one?

QUESTION: I don’t know. I think it – it’s usually, generally, the Solomon Islands.

QUESTION: I thought it was Micronesia.

QUESTION: Or Micronesia.

QUESTION: Or was that about Israel?

MR. KELLY: All right. Well, let me give you the guidance on this. The United States believes it has the sovereign right to conduct economic – its economic relationship with Cuba as determined by U.S. national interests. Sanctions on Cuba are designed to permit humanitarian items to reach the Cuban people, while denying the Cuban Government resources that it could use to repress its citizens.

This yearly exercise at the UN obscures the fact that the United States is a leading source of food and humanitarian relief to Cuba. In 2008, the United States exported $717 million in agricultural products, medical devices, medicine, wood, and humanitarian items to Cuba.

QUESTION: Sorry. Wood?

MR. KELLY: Wood.


MR. KELLY: Sanctions is one part of the United States policy approach to Cuba. In recent months, as you know, we’ve reached out to the Cuban people. We’ve taken steps to promote the free flow of information, we’ve lifted restrictions on family visits, and we’ve expanded the kinds and amounts of humanitarian items that the American people can donate to Cuba. We’ve also taken steps to establish a more constructive dialogue with Cuba. We’ve reestablished dialogues on migration, and we’ve initiated talks to reestablish direct mail service.

We remain focused on the need for improved human rights conditions and respect for fundamental freedoms in Cuba, and we would need to see improvements in those areas before we could normalize relations with Havana.

QUESTION: But, I mean, you have no opinion on the fact that the rest of the world thinks that this is a bad way to go?

MR. KELLY: Well --

QUESTION: That the whole world – I mean, Palau notwithstanding – excuse me.

MR. KELLY: This – it seems to me to be an annual exercise that --

QUESTION: It’s an annual exercise to tell you that the rest of the world thinks --

MR. KELLY: -- seems to be – kind of has inertia from the Cold War. The suggestion that we’re not assisting Cuba is just false. I mean, we are one of the major providers of humanitarian assistance to Cuba. But we don’t believe that we should – while there are repressive measures in place in Cuba, that we should reward the Government of Cuba by lifting the economic sanctions that could assist the Government of Cuba in its repression of its own citizens.

QUESTION: Well, it seems that the rest of the world thinks that, in fact, if you were to lift the embargo, that could help the repression – lift it.

MR. KELLY: Well, we don’t think it’s time to lift that embargo. The – we will consider that when the Government of Cuba starts to make some positive steps towards loosening up its repression of its own people.

QUESTION: Ian, without getting into a philosophical and – especially a lengthy or philosophical debate about this, you said that this, as an annual exercise, is a Cold War remnant.


MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Well, there a lot of people who would argue that the embargo is a Cold War remnant. I mean, this is the first year that this vote has happened, where you’ve been in this tiny minority that you are – that the U.S. is the only country in this hemisphere not to have diplomatic relations with Cuba.

MR. KELLY: Well, I mean, we – our policy in Cuba is designed to try and move Cuba to doing the right thing towards its own people. And they have not taken the kind of steps to show us that they’re willing to open up their society and open up their economy. And until they do these things, we’re not willing to change our policy. Having said that, we also want to have --

QUESTION: Having said that --

MR. KELLY: -- a productive dialogue.

QUESTION: -- how long has the embargo been in place now?

MR. KELLY: I think it’s been in place almost 50 years.

QUESTION: Yeah, yeah.

MR. KELLY: Well, that’s a long time to have a repressive system.

QUESTION: Well, it’s also a long time to have a policy that has produced absolutely no results.

MR. KELLY: Well, we’re – we are looking to try and put our relationship – with Cuba on a more productive path.

Menendez Bringing Cuban American Money to DSCC

Shifting tides around Cuba

By Al Kamen
Washington Post
Monday, October 26, 2009

President Obama heads off to Florida on Monday to meet service members at the Naval Air Station in Jacksonville and then proceeds to a heavy-duty fundraiser for House and Senate candidates at the Fontainebleau, a historic hotel in Miami Beach. Those who have given or raised a combined $100,000 will be able to have a few drinks, a picture taken with the POTUS and a table at the VIP dinner. Or it's $30,400 for a couple for everything, and just $500 a person for cocktails only.

There may be some interesting first-time contributions from the largely Republican-leaning Cuban American community. Public Campaign, a nonpartisan campaign finance and watchdog group, says in an upcoming report that a Cuban American financial network, which takes a hard line against any weakening of current trade and travel restrictions on Cuba, has been rapidly increasing its contributions to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

The DSCC raised $26,250 from the pro-embargo network in the 2006 election cycle and $88,800 in the 2008 election cycle, Public Campaign is expected to report. But in the first eight months of 2009, the DSCC raised $145,700 from that network, and the fundraiser in Miami could well raise more. (This surge comes while the DSCC's general fundraising is way down from 2007.)

It could be that there was no great reason for these folks to contribute to the Democrats before, but there's growing concern that Obama and his party might be able to put some serious cracks in the long-standing wall around Cuba. So maybe it's time to shore up pro-embargo Democrats? Some pro-embargo folks are on the host committee, including Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey, a hard-liner on Cuba who chairs the DSCC, and two Floridians, Sen. Bill Nelson and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Another Florida Democrat among the hosts, Rep. Kendrick B. Meek, who's running for the Senate, favors keeping the embargo intact but also supported easing travel for Cuban Americans to the island.

Amb. Rice speech at UN on embargo

Here we go again. I suppose old habits die hard.

The hostile language we have just heard from the Foreign Minister of Cuba seems straight out of the Cold War era and is not conducive to constructive progress. We will not respond in kind to painfully familiar rhetoric that we have heard in years past – rather, I am prepared to acknowledge that there is a new chapter to this old story.

In recent months, since the start of the Obama Administration, the United States has undertaken several steps to reach out to the Cuban people in support of their desire to freely determine their country's future. We have promoted family visits and the free flow of information to and from the Cuban people. The United States lifted restrictions on family visits and remittances and expanded the amounts of humanitarian items that the American people can donate to individuals in Cuba. The United States has enhanced the ability of U.S. telecommunications companies to pursue agreements to provide service to Cuba and has made it easier for U.S. agricultural producers to pursue contracts with Cuban buyers. These are important steps and we hope they can be the starting point for further changes in the relationship.

Mr. President, it is equally important to note that the United States has demonstrated that we are prepared to engage the Government of Cuba on issues that affect the security and well-being of both our peoples. Specifically, we have resumed bilateral discussions on migration, we have initiated talks to re-establish direct mail service between the United States and Cuba, and we stand by to provide assistance should Cuba be ravaged again by hurricanes as it was in 2008. We believe that any resolution commenting on the relationship between Cuba and the United States of American should reflect these constructive developments. Sadly, the resolution under discussion fails in that regard and regrettably, the Government of Cuba has not yet reciprocated these important steps taken by my government.

Mr. President, at the same time, we must point out that the United States of America, like all Member States, has the sovereign right to conduct its economic relationship with another country as it sees fit. The U.S. economic relationship with Cuba is a bilateral issue and part of a broader set of relations. The steps the United States has taken to improve communications and exchanges with the Cuban people are undertaken with a continuing firm commitment to encouraging the Cuban government to respect basic norms embodied in the Inter-American Democratic Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

As we discuss our differences on this subject, we must remember one important commonality - the United States, like most Member States, is firmly committed to supporting the desire of the Cuban people to determine freely their country's future.

Respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms are part of this organization's core values. We should not lose sight of that in a stale debate bogged down in the rhetorical arguments of the past. That kind of debate does nothing to help the Cuban people.

Mr. President, I must address two significant distortions in the Cuban position. First, my delegation regrets that the delegation from Cuba continues to label inappropriately and incorrectly U.S. trade restrictions on Cuba as an act of genocide. Such an egregious misuse of the term diminishes the real suffering of victims of genocide elsewhere in the world. Second, it is erroneous to charge that U.S. sanctions are the cause of deprivation among the Cuban people. The U.S. maintains no restriction on humanitarian aid to Cuba. In fact, the U.S. is a major source of humanitarian assistance to the Cuban people and the largest provider of food to Cuba.

In 2008, the United States exported agricultural products, medical devices, medicine, wood, and humanitarian items to Cuba. In agricultural products alone, the United States sold $700.1 million of goods to Cuba. Once again, in 2008, the United States was Cuba's fifth largest trading partner.

As we have sought to reach out to the Cuban people, we have called upon the Cuban government to take steps to respond to the desire of its citizens to enjoy political, social, and economic freedoms. There are many things the Government of Cuba could do to signal its willingness to engage constructively with its own people and with the United States. Positive measures could include liberating the hundreds of prisoners of conscience in Cuban jails, ratifying the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, reducing the excessive charges on remittances flowing into the country, demonstrating greater respect for freedom of speech, ending the practice of arresting political opponents on vague and arbitrary charges such as "social dangerousness," and permitting the visit of UN rapporteurs on human rights and torture.

As other delegations consider this resolution, we do hope that they will not lose sight of the undeniable fact that the Cuban government's airtight restrictions on internationally-recognized social, political, and economic freedoms are the main source of deprivation and the primary obstacle to development in Cuba.

Mr. President, because it does not reflect current realities, my delegation will vote against this resolution. At the same time, the United States will continue to work to expand opportunities for the people of Cuba to empower themselves through access to information and resources. We will continue to engage the Government of Cuba on issues of mutual concern and national security. We await a constructive Cuban response to our initiatives. In the meantime, it is high time for this body to move beyond the rhetorical posturing of the past, to recognize the situation in Cuba for what it is today, and to encourage progress towards genuine change.

Thank you Mr. President.

Cuba's response here

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Obama Administration Applies Bush Policy to NY Philharmonic

New York Philharmonic Won't Go to Cuba Without Patrons

By DANIEL J. WAKIN, New York Times October 2, 2009

Violinists, bassoonists and timpanists in Cuba? Fine. A bevy of rich Americans? Sorry.

The New York Philharmonic scratched its trip to Cuba at the end of October because the United States government was barring a group of patrons from going along, the orchestra said on Thursday. Without them and their donations, the Philharmonic said, it could not afford the tour.

About 150 board members and other donors had promised to pay $10,000 each to spend Oct. 30 to Nov. 2 in Havana, where the orchestra was to play two concerts, said Zarin Mehta, its president. The money was to have covered the cost of the proposed trip, which came at the invitation of the Cuban government.

Supporters, both individuals and executives of donor companies, usually tag along with major orchestras when they travel around the world. For some, the travel amounts to high-class tourism, along with a chance to make business connections in foreign capitals. In effect, orchestras would not be able to raise tour money without giving the donors a chance to accompany them.

“The patrons were excited about giving us the money with the opportunity of going to see Havana and be a witness and support their orchestra,” Mr. Mehta said. “This is what’s important to them.” Mr. Mehta said he would not consider taking the patrons’ money while leaving them behind.

“I wouldn’t want to insult them,” he said. “I think it’s most likely they would say, ‘Go another time.’ ” That’s what the orchestra will try to do, he said.

Mr. Mehta said he had hoped that pressure applied by New York elected officials — including Senator Charles E. Schumer and Representatives Steve Israel and Charles B. Rangel, who have supported the trip — would help to have the decision overturned. “They haven’t been successful,” he said. “They’re befuddled.”

The spokesman for the State Department, which guides the Treasury Department in deciding which Americans can go to Cuba, said the reason was simple.

The sanctions on Cuba permit performing artists to enter, said the spokesman, P. J. Crowley, but “there’s no permitted category of travel that would include the Philharmonic patrons. Basically they’re tourists, and we don’t license tourist travel to Cuba under the present circumstances.”

He said there was also an economic component to the decision: the wealthy patrons could spend large amounts of money in Cuba, which would effectively violate economic sanctions.

In response to the Philharmonic’s position that it could not go without the financial supporters, he said, “Perhaps the New York Philharmonic should have checked with the government before announcing the trip.”

The cancellation was an embarrassment and something of a setback in the New York Philharmonic’s effort to cast itself as the nation’s flagship traveling orchestra. It made headlines with a trip to Pyongyang, North Korea, nearly two years ago (no United States government permission for patrons was required) and leaves on Sunday for an Asian tour that will take in another Communist nation, Vietnam.

The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control issues licenses to visit Cuba because of the longstanding economic sanctions aimed at the island’s Communist government.

According to the orchestra, the office said informally that the players and staff members would be allowed to go, but not the patrons.

A lawyer for the orchestra has delivered a brief to the licensing office, making its case that the categories are elastic and an exception should be made for the donors. Several board members were allowed to accompany the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra when it visited Havana in 1999.

The trip plans came about amid a warming of relations between Cuba and the United States. The Obama administration has restarted talks about migration and eased limits on remittances and travel by Cuban-Americans to the island to visit relatives. But as a sign of the political thorniness involved in closer ties, the administration extended for a year the law used to impose the trade embargo on Cuba.

Bills pending in both houses of Congress would lift travel restrictions on all Americans to Cuba. The bills have a surprising level of bipartisan support, helped by lobbying by agricultural and business groups eager to expand commercial ties.

“This exposes how arbitrary the rules are governing American citizens’ rights to travel to Cuba,” Julia E. Sweig, an expert on Cuba at the Council on Foreign Relations, said of the Treasury Department’s position. “If you have a family member there, you can go. If you play an instrument or sport, you can go. But if you’re a philanthropist who wants to support arts in Cuba, you can’t?”

J. Christopher Flowers, a Philharmonic trustee, said he was still hoping to go to Cuba with the orchestra someday. “It sounds absolutely fascinating,” he said, but he declined to offer an opinion on the decision. “It’s up to the government to make the rules and for us to follow them,” he added. “It’s not for me to try to figure out our policy with respect to Cuba.”

Mr. Flowers said he did not know whether he would have spent much money in Cuba. “I’ve never been there,” he said.

Mr. Mehta said the next opening for a Cuba trip would probably come in June or July. The orchestra will try to come up with concerts quickly to play at its Avery Fisher home for the time it would have been in Havana.

As for programming on those dates, Mr. Mehta said, Latin American music is a distinct possibility. “The thought has crossed our minds.”

Ginger Thompson and Mark Landler contributed reporting from Washington.

NY Philharmonic cancels trip to Cuba this month
Thu Oct 1, 2009 6:02pm EDT

By Jeff Franks and Michelle Nichols

HAVANA/NEW YORK (Reuters) - The New York Philharmonic has put off plans to perform in Cuba for the first time this month because the U.S. government has not allowed its sponsors to travel to the communist-led island.

"The postponement is due to existing U.S. Government restrictions on travel to Cuba which would affect project funders and supporters, without whose financial support the trip is not possible," it said in a statement on Thursday.

Known for groundbreaking musical diplomacy with visits to countries such as reclusive communist North Korea last year, the orchestra had planned to travel to Havana from October 30 to Nov 2 to perform two concerts.

But while the United States appears to be easing its long isolation of Cuba and the orchestra said its trip had the support of U.S. President Barack Obama's administration, the State Department and the Treasury Department, there were problems associated with long-imposed travel restrictions.

About 150 patrons and supporters had pledged to pay about $10,000 each to accompany the orchestra on the trip to Cuba.

The orchestra had applied for a license for the group to accompany it and, while they had not officially been denied, U.S. officials said there was no category that would allow them to go to Cuba under the current travel regulations, New York Philharmonic spokesman Eric Latzky said.

The orchestra will try to travel to Cuba at a later date.

"The New York Philharmonic intends to reschedule these concerts when travel restrictions for project funders are resolved," it said without naming the funders and supporters who would be affected by the restrictions.

Washington and Havana have been at odds since Fidel Castro took control of Cuba 50 years ago in a revolution against a U.S.-backed dictator and steered the island toward communism.

Under a trade embargo enforced against Castro's government since 1962, Americans cannot spend dollars in Cuba without permission from the U.S. Treasury.

Obama eased sanctions this year by lifting restrictions on travel and cash remittances by Cuban Americans in a move to improve ties with Havana, though he has said the trade embargo will stay in place until Cuba undertakes democratic reforms.

When orchestra president Zarin Mehta met with Cuban officials and toured facilities in Havana in July, he said he expected the orchestra to be criticized if went ahead with a visit to the island 90 miles south of Florida.

When the orchestra performed in Pyongyang in February 2008, critics questioned the appropriateness of the visit to North Korea, whose government Washington considers one of the world's most repressive.

The orchestra opened its 2009/10 season in New York City on September 16 and its program includes tours of Asia and Europe with debut performances in Hanoi and Abu Dhabi. The orchestra has performed in at least 418 cities worldwide since 1930.

The New York Philharmonic was founded in 1842 by a group of local musicians and plays about 180 concerts a year. In late 2004, the philharmonic gave its concert number 14,000 -- a milestone unmatched by any other orchestra in the world.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols, editing by Anthony Boadle)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Menendez Role in Removing Non-tourist Travel

Baucus bill portends Dem fight over Cuba
By Alexander Bolton - 05/03/09 08:01 PM ET
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) is set to introduce legislation that would open the door to more agricultural exports to Cuba, taking advantage of President Obama’s pledge to “seek a new beginning” with the island nation.

The bill will likely trigger a fight with Democratic proponents of the Cuba embargo policy, Sen. Robert Menendez (N.J.), chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and Florida Sen. Bill Nelson.

But Democrats from agricultural states, such as North Dakota Sen. Byron Dorgan, will side with Baucus. American farmers view Cuba as a lucrative, largely untapped market.

A Senate official working on Cuba policy closely informed The Hill that Baucus is expected to drop his bill this week.

Baucus said in an interview that he thought he would do so, but said he was not 100 percent certain.

The Finance panel chairman has introduced legislation aimed at increasing agricultural exports to Cuba in previous years.

In 2007, Baucus pushed the Promoting American Agricultural and Medical Exports to Cuba Act. The Finance Committee held hearings on the bill but it did not receive a vote on the Senate floor.

Dorgan and Democratic Sens. Jeff Bingaman (N.M.), Maria Cantwell (Wash.), Tom Harkin (Iowa), Mary Landrieu (La.), Blanche Lincoln (Ark.), Mark Pryor (Ark.), Debbie Stabenow (Mich.) and Ron Wyden (Ore.) signed on as co-sponsors.

The bill would have prohibited the president from restricting payments from Cuban financial institutions and directed the secretary of Agriculture to promote exports to Cuba.

“We expect to introduce something soon,” said Dan Virkstis, a spokesman for Baucus and the Finance Committee. “It will be similar to the chairman's bill last Congress — focused on opening trade and travel markets for U.S. farmers, ranchers and families.”

Congress passed legislation in 2000 allowing Cuba to buy agricultural commodities from the U.S., but farm lobbyists say the Treasury Department curbed exports by interpreting the law to require payment before goods are shipped.

Farm lobbyists see a golden opportunity to change that in the wake of Obama’s directive making it easier for Cuban Americans to travel and send money to Cuba.

Cuba policy has already flared as a controversial subject within the Democratic caucus this year. Menendez and Nelson threatened to vote against a $410 billion omnibus spending bill in March because it contained language they feared would weaken the embargo.

Menendez withdrew his objection after receiving assurances from the Treasury Department that the provision would not impact Cuba policy significantly.

Some Cuba policy watchers suspected that Menendez may have had a behind-the-scenes impact on Obama’s decision not to also allow U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba for cultural, academic and humanitarian purposes. This would have marked a return to the policies in effect at the end of the Clinton administration.

Menendez spoke to Denis McDonough, director of strategic communications at the National Security Council, shortly before Obama announced his Cuba order. McDonough advises the president on Cuba policy.

But one Senate Cuba expert noted that Obama’s directive fulfilled promises he made on the campaign trail and that Obama had not pledged to return entirely to Clinton-era Cuba policies.

Given the likely opposition from Menendez, Nelson and Florida Republican Sen. Mel Martinez, it may take some time before Baucus can move his bill to the floor.

This week, the Senate resumes consideration of housing legislation, a measure that has become less controversial since the Senate voted against an amendment known as cramdown. The proposal, pushed by Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.), would have given bankruptcy judges power to write down mortgages for homeowners in default.

Also this week, members of the Senate Appropriations Committee will continue work on a supplemental spending bill to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. A Democratic leadership aide said that bill could reach the floor before the Memorial Day recess or in early June.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has said he also wants to take up a railroad antitrust bill and legislation addressing executive compensation.