GOP-led Senate panel votes to lift travel ban to Cuba

The Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday voted to lift the ban on travel to Cuba in an 18-12 vote.

Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) offered the amendment to a bill that would fund Financial Services and General Government in the next fiscal year.  

For nearly 60 years, Moran said the only country that Americans are prohibited to travel to is Cuba.

“This amendment would eliminate that prohibition and allow Americans the opportunity to travel to Cuba,” he said.

{mosads}Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who has been a staunch supporter of President Obama’s decision to normalize U.S. relations with Cuba, praised the amendment.

“You’d think we wouldn’t be allowed to go to North Korea,” he said. “If we want to go there, we can go there.”

Leahy noted Americans can also travel to Iran, which he said finances terrorism, and to Syria.

“The only country where Americans are told they can’t go and spend their own money is in Cuba,” he said. “It does not make sense.”

Under a new policy announced by the administration late last year, the travel embargo to Cuba remains in place, but it is easier for people to obtain licenses to travel to Cuba.

In other Senate spending bills, however, Republicans have inserted provisions meant to undermine the new policy.

The amendment comes just days after the Cuban embassy opened for the first time in decades in Washington, D.C.

Secretary of State John Kerry is slated to visit Cuba in mid-August for the opening of the U.S. embassy there. 

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