WASHINGTON (B)--With less than three weeks before the end of fiscal 2000, the House has yet to appoint negotiators to work out differences between House and Senate versions of the fiscal 2001 farm spending bills. An aide on the House Agriculture Subcommittee said that proposals to lessen U.S. sanctions against Cuba were the main issue holding up the appointment of House conferees.

According to the aide, the House Republican leadership has not yet decided how it wants to handle various House and Senate efforts that would allow U.S. food and medicine sales to Cuba.

"We're waiting for a green light from leadership," the aide said.

An aide to House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, R-TX, confirmed that the Cuba trade measure was a "significant issue."

There are several proposals in the House to lower a part of the U.S. sanctions currently in place against Cuba. Earlier this summer, the Republican leadership agreed to include as part of the House farm spending package a measure crafted by Rep. George Nethercutt, R-WA, that would allow direct sales to Cuba but prevent U.S. companies from securing U.S. private or government credit to assist those sales.

Nethercutt Aide Tom McArthur told BridgeNews that as far as he knew, the deal was "still ironclad," and he expected the House would "still march forward" with the appointment of negotiators.

House Republican leaders, especially DeLay and Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-TX, have been opposed to any lessening of U.S. sanctions on Cuba.

In addition, Sens. Christopher Dodd, D-CN, and Byron Dorgan, D-ND, have included what they consider a broader reform of the Cuba trade ban as part the Senate's spending proposal.

With the start of the next fiscal year coming nigh, it is likely that Congress will wrap a number of unfinished appropriations bills into an omnibus spending package in early October.

Both the House and Senate fiscal 2001 farm spending bills add up to about $75 billion, and most of the other difference in the spending bills have been resolved, according to the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee aide.

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