Menendez promises to block repeal of Cuba travel ban

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) pledged Wednesday to block a House bill that would repeal the American travel ban to Cuba as well as boost U.S. farm exports to the island nation.

In a statement, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee chairman said the bill would help prop up the Castro regime, which "denies its own people basic human rights," and should not become law.

"I oppose and will filibuster any attempt to pass the bill in the Senate. The big corporate interests behind this bill couldn’t care less about whether the Cuban people are free or not — they only care about padding their profits by opening up a new market," Menendez said. "Repression is repression and dictatorships are dictatorships, no matter where they are located or whether you want to use their resorts."

Authored by Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, the bill has 62 co-sponsors. It was passed by the House Agriculture Committee on Wednesday. The next step for the legislation would be a House floor vote.

Cuba has been under a U.S. trade embargo since 1960. The bill would repeal the long-time travel ban to Cuba for Americans as well as remove some restrictions on transactions between American and Cuban banks, which should encourage more agriculture exports to enter the country.

A number of business associations, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, are lobbying in favor of the bill.

Menendez, a Cuban-American, has often taken a hard line against opening up trade with Cuba. In 2009, he raised objections to the omnibus appropriations bill over the loosening of some travel restrictions to Cuba.