Lawmakers reintroduce measure to lift Cuba travel restrictions

Lawmakers reintroduce measure to lift Cuba travel restrictions

More than half of the Senate has signed on to a measure lifting restrictions on American travel to Cuba.

The bill, introduced Thursday by Sens. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeAuthorizing military force is necessary, but insufficient Republicans jockey for position on immigration McCain, Flake warn against 'politically-motivated penalties' for Canadian defense firm MORE (R-Ariz.) and Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyOvernight Regulation: Massachusetts AG sues Equifax | Trump weighs easing rules on gun exports | EPA nominee to fight worker safety rule in court Trump to ease rules on gun exports: report Overnight Defense: Senate passes 0B defense bill | 3,000 US troops heading to Afghanistan | Two more Navy officials fired over ship collisions MORE (D-Vt.), would end restrictions put in place in 1996 and 2000 that bar U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents from traveling to the long-embargoed island nation.

“Recognizing the inherent right of Americans to travel to Cuba isn’t a concession to dictators, it is an expression of freedom," Flake said in a statement. "It is Americans who are penalized by our travel ban, not the Cuban government."

The measure, so far, has won the support of 55 senators, who have signed on as co-sponsors.

An earlier version of the bill introduced in 2015 similarly had a bipartisan mix of co-sponsors but ultimately never made it to the Senate floor. 

Former President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaGeorge W. Bush honors father at benefit for hurricane victims Dem senator: ‘I miss every one of’ our last 5 presidents All five living former presidents appear at hurricane relief benefit concert MORE began easing some trade and travel restrictions with Cuba early on in his presidency and announced in 2014 that the U.S. would re-establish diplomatic ties with the island nation.

But under the Trump administration, the future of U.S.-Cuba relations has been less clear. On the campaign trail in 2016, Trump suggested that he could undo the steps toward normalization taken by Obama and has remained quiet on the issue since taking office in January.

The U.S. has long maintained an embargo on Cuba because of its Cold War ties to the Soviet Union and its oppressive communist government. The country's longtime dictator, Fidel Castro, died in November, though his brother Raul Castro has been in power since 2008.

A Pew Research poll released in December showed widespread support for normalizing relations with Cuba, and nearly three-quarters of Americans — 73 percent — said they favor lifting the embargo against Cuba.

U.S.-Cuba relations, however, remain a politically sensitive subject for millions of Cuban-Americans, who fled the Caribbean nation under Fidel Castro's rule and largely object to friendlier ties with the regime.