WASHINGTON – The House dealt an election-season setback to President Bush (search) Wednesday by voting to overturn restrictions his administration has issued on the gift parcels that Americans can send to family members in Cuba.
The 221-194 vote would block new rules that took effect July 1 barring people from shipping clothing, seeds, veterinary medicine and soap-making ingredients to Cubans.
Under the new Commerce Department (search) rules, no items at all could be shipped to people who are not immediate relatives such as parents, grandchildren or spouses. And nonfood gifts cannot be shipped more than monthly to each household of relatives — down from the current limit of once a month per individual relative.
The administration and its supporters have said the restrictions are aimed at weakening Cuban leader Fidel Castro (search) and his communist government. Opponents say the rules — like others limiting trade and travel — will do little to hinder Castro, and have accused Bush of politically motivated restrictions aimed at courting Florida's Cuban-American voters.
The amendment was offered to a $39.8 billion measure financing the departments of Commerce, Justice and State next year. The Senate has yet to write its version of the bill.