A bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation today that would end the travel ban between the U.S. and Cuba.
The bill has an equal number of Democratic and Republican co-sponsors, showing how the Cuba issue defies normal party lines.
“We’ve tried this current policy that we have prohibiting travel for about 50 years, and it hasn’t worked, so it’s time for something new,” said Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., one of the sponsors of the bill. “It’s time to allow Americans to travel freely to Cuba.”
— Jeff Flake (@JeffFlake) January 29, 2015
Earlier this month, the White House acted on its own to loosen decades-old restrictions on travel, trade, investment and remittances.
The eased restrictions for travel from the U.S. to Cuba apply to 12 categories of people, including Americans with family in Cuba, employees on official business for the U.S. and foreign governments, and journalists.
General tourist travel is still prohibited.
The new legislation would repeal all restrictions on U.S. citizens’ travel to Cuba. It would also relax restrictions on related banking transactions.
Though the bill has Republican support, it’s questionable if the bill will ultimately be voted on in the Senate.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has been critical of the administration’s Cuba policy, as has Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, a Cuban-American leading the opposition effort.
Critics of Obama’s new Cuba policy say it empowers the Castro regime.
Also today, Sens. Flake and Rand Paul of Kentucky wrote a letter backed by seven GOP senators to President Obama encouraging the “modernization” of relations with Cuba — and that Congress plays a role in doing so.
“Our hope is that changes to the current trade and travel relationship will advance our goal of bolstering the vulnerable private sector and increasing entrepreneurship while decreasing the role of state-controlled enterprises,” wrote the Republican senators.
“With the significance of your recent announcements related to Cuba, we look forward to Congress turning its attention toward modernizing U.S.-Cuba policy to the benefit of U.S. citizens and the Cuban people alike. Congress must play an integral role in reforming our policy toward Cuba.”