WASHINGTON – Sen. Max Baucus (search) said Friday he would allow the Senate to act on Treasury Department nominees after the department clarified rules that the senator said were obstructing sales of agriculture products to Cuba.
With Baucus no longer blocking the confirmation process, the Senate Finance Committee quickly approved a half-dozen Treasury Department candidates, including Robert Kimmitt (search) to be deputy secretary of Treasury.
Baucus, D-Mont., the top Democrat o statement, confirmed that under existing rules goods may be shipped once the seller or the seller's agent, including a third-country financial institution, receives payment from Cuba (search).
Baucus blamed the new rules on the Bush administration's hard-line stance toward the Castro government and said they were hurting Montana farmers and ranchers trying to expand sales to Cuba.
He said Treasury had agreed that companies would be allowed to ship goods to Cuba once payment is received by a third-country bank acting as the seller's agent.
"This kind of transaction is far from ideal," Baucus said in a statement. "Sales will still be lost. But given the burdensome retractions imposed by Treasury and the resulting plummet in agricultural sales to Cuba, something had to be done."
Congress in 2000 passed a law that allows cash sales of food and agricultural products to Cuba, an exception to the four-decade-old trade embargo with the Castro regime.
Under Senate rules, a single senator can block or delay consideration of nominees.