Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyBiden signs four bills aimed at helping veterans The Hill's Morning Report - Ins and outs: Powell renominated at Fed, Parnell drops Senate bid On The Money — Biden sticks with Powell despite pressure MORE (D-N.H.) blasted critics of President Obama’s new efforts to ease trade and travel restrictions on Cuba.

“As the author of much of the U.S. human rights legislation enacted into law in the past 20 years, I know that such smears are both inaccurate and offensive,” Leahy said. “Their arguments boil down to this: Cuba remains a one party state whose government severely punishes dissent and is a sponsor of terrorism.”

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This month, the administration announced it was easing some trade and travel restrictions against Cuba. Some lawmakers, such as Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) chided Obama for placating to a ruthless regime. 

More than 50 years ago, the United States decided to ban travel and trade as an attempt to punish the communist regime of Fidel Castro. Leahy said obviously it hasn’t worked because the Castros are still in control of the country.

“Not surprisingly a handful of members of Congress continue to defend a policy they fully acknowledge has failed — through eight U.S. presidencies — and they reflexively have condemned the President’s actions,” Leahy said. “The solution of the President’s critics, however, is more of the same, even though it hasn’t worked for five decades.”

Leahy said the process of normalizing relations with Cuba would take time but urged the island country to join international conventions that protect human rights. He said open relations would aid the U.S. economy and the Cuban people.

“Rather than continuing to isolate them and add to their hardships we should do what we can to help them prepare for what lies ahead,” Leahy said.