A spending bill approved on Wednesday by one of the panel’s subcommittees contains a provision that seeks to tighten travel restrictions to Cuba, following the celebrity couples headline making trip the communist country earlier this year.
“This is the Jay-Z, Beyonce Bill,” Rep. Jose Serrano (D-N.Y.), a member of the House Appropriations Committee who opposes the provision, told POLITICO. “Absolutely [it’s a response to the trip], and it’s playing to the audience in Miami” — a reference to opponents of relaxing economic and diplomatic relations with the island country.
(Also on POLITICO: Beyoncé: Cuba response 'quite shocking')
The provision is part of a larger $17 billion financial services spending bill that funds the operations of several agencies, including the Treasury Department, which approved the cultural trip that included Jay-Z and Beyonce. The department has said it approves the trips based on their itinerary and not the specific travelers.
Panel Republicans said that’s too broad a policy and in response the spending would restrict travel to Cuba to educational exchanges involving academic study related to a degree program. So unless Jay-Z and Beyonce are earning a degree — the Treasury Department wouldn’t have been able to approve their trip.
Their trip “was an example of how the guidelines are not being enforced,” Subcommittee Chairman Ander Crenshaw (R-Fla.) told POLITICO. “I think that if we’re going to say that we have this policy in place that relates to travel in Cuba that it ought to be enforced and that becomes a grey area where they’re probably not really following the guidelines.”
Serrano, an advocate for opening up relations with Cuba, said he has no problems with the married celebrity couple’s anniversary trip, which sparked criticism for what could be perceived as an endorsement of the communist country.
“The mistake they made was being seen in public, by that I mean they being who they are walked down the street.,” he said. “We may consider Cuba a closed society, but even it is – it’s not closed enough so they don’t know who Jay-Z and Beyonce are.”
He added: “What you’re seeing here is the result of a successful trip …isn’t it educational for a superstar in our country to go to Cuba and say, ‘Look who we are?’”