House rejects easing Cuba travel restrictions

House rejects easing Cuba travel restrictions
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The House on Thursday defeated a proposal that would undo Republican efforts to impose restrictions on travel to Cuba amid President Obama’s efforts to normalize relations.

The $55.3 billion measure funding the Departments of Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development contains language that would prevent licensing of new flights and cruise ship routes to Cuba if they land on or pass through property confiscated by the Castro regime.

Rep. Barbara Lee’s (D-Calif.) amendment to eliminate the provision failed by a vote of 176-247, with one lawmaker, Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.), voting "present." Eighteen Republicans voted for the amendment, while 26 Democrats opposed it.

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“Not only are the current provisions in this bill wrong for diplomacy, they’re patently anti-business,” Lee said.

Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) said travel to Cuba shouldn’t be equated with supporting the Castro regime.

“If I travel on Delta Airlines to Moscow, it does not mean that I support Putin. If I travel on Royal Caribbean to Shanghai, it does not mean I support the Chinese regime,” Sanford said.

But Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart (R-Fla.), the chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee that authored the measure and a Cuban-American, said the provision merely protects American property illegally seized by the Castro government.

“So if you support this amendment, what you are saying is it’s okay to do business on property that was stolen from Americans,” Diaz-Balart said.

Thursday’s vote marked the second time this week the House has voted to constrain the Obama administration’s efforts to reform relations with Cuba. On Wednesday, the House voted to preserve a provision in a separate appropriations bill for the Departments of Commerce and Justice that prohibits exports to members of the Cuban military and intelligence service, as well as their families.