Lawmakers are praising the Obama administration's moves on Cuba, after some of them accompanied newly released American Alan Gross from the island and others greeted him upon his arrival on U.S. soil.


“Today President Obama and President Raul Castro made history," said Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahySenators ask FDA to crack down on non-dairy milks, cheeses Lawmaker wants Chinese news outlet to register as foreign agent Overnight Defense: Book says Trump called military leaders 'dopes and babies' | House reinvites Pompeo for Iran hearing | Dems urge Esper to reject border wall funding request MORE (D-Vt.), who, along with Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeThe Hill's 12:30 Report: House managers to begin opening arguments on day two Flake: Republicans don't speak out against Trump 'because they want to keep their jobs' GOP senator calls CNN reporter a 'liberal hack' when asked about Parnas materials MORE (R-Ariz.), accompanied Gross back from Cuba. "After 64 years of animosity rooted in the Cold War, they have finally put our two countries on a new path. I congratulate them both."

Gross, a U.S. aid worker, was freed on Wednesday after five years in a Cuban prison, and the Obama administration announced moves to normalize diplomatic relations with the country. 

The praise comes as possible Republican presidential candidates, including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioDes Moines Register endorses Elizabeth Warren as Democratic presidential nominee Commerce Department withdraws Huawei rule after Pentagon pushback: reports  Veronica Escobar to give Spanish-language response to Trump State of the Union address MORE (Fla.), sharply criticize Obama's moves. 

“Opening the door with Cuba for trade, travel, and the exchange of ideas will create a force for positive change in Cuba that more than 50 years of our current policy of exclusion could not achieve,” the Senate's No. 2 Democrat, Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinDemocrats see Mulvaney as smoking gun witness at Trump trial Trump legal team offers brisk opening defense of president Democrats feel political momentum swinging to them on impeachment MORE (Ill.) said Wednesday.

Durbin joined other lawmakers, including Sens. Barbara MikulskiBarbara Ann MikulskiLobbying World Only four Dem senators have endorsed 2020 candidates Raskin embraces role as constitutional scholar MORE (D-Md.) and Carl LevinCarl Milton LevinThe Trumpification of the federal courts Global health is the last bastion of bipartisan foreign policy Can the United States Senate rise to the occasion? Probably not MORE (D-Mich.), and Rep. James McGovern (D-Mass.), in greeting Gross upon arrival at Joint Base Andrews, outside of Washington. 

Durbin's spokesman Ben Marter tweeted a photo of the moment. 


Flake tweeted a photo of Gross being reunited with his wife Judy before leaving Cuba for the U.S.

A range of lawmakers pointed to their work in securing Gross's release. Leahy said a member of his staff, Tim Rieser, spoke with Gross by phone on a weekly basis, and Leahy visited him twice in Cuba. 

"This day would not have been possible without the tireless advocacy of Alan’s wife, Judy, who never gave up," Van Hollen said in a statement. "I also want to thank President Obama and his team, including Chief of Staff Denis McDonoughDenis Richard McDonoughFormer Obama officials willing to testify on McCabe's behalf: report Trailer shows first look at Annette Bening as Dianne Feinstein 2020 Democrats fight to claim Obama's mantle on health care MORE and National Security Advisor Susan Rice, for their dedication to this effort and to their vision of a new day in the relationship between the United States and Cuba."

While much of the praise came from Democrats, Flake added a Republican voice.

"When I visited Alan last month, he expressed the hope that his ordeal might somehow lead to positive changes between the United States and Cuba," Flake said. "With today's significant and far-reaching announcements, I think it already has."