Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezFive ways Senate could change Biden's spending plan Spending bill faces Senate scramble Republicans raise concerns over Biden's nominee for ambassador to Germany MORE expressed concern on Friday that the Obama administration is overstepping its authority by lifting restrictions on Cuban rum and cigars.
The New Jersey Democrat, who has criticized President Obama for reestablishing relations with the Communist nation, said the White House is wrong about what will help the Cuban people.
"The administration has announced new regulations that blatantly violate the laws of the United States in a legacy-attempt to further normalize relations with Cuba in the next 100 days, supposedly to benefit businesses, but the only beneficiaries of the administration’s legacy-largesse are the Castros themselves,” Melendez said in a statement.
He said the change in policy violates the Cuban Democracy Act of 1992 and the Cuban Liberty and the Libertad Act of 1996, which he said codified the embargo against Cuba.
"While the administration may not like the embargo or agree with it, it remains the law of the land," Menendez said.
"At the end of the day, it is outrageous that our own government would seek to break the law and blatantly acknowledge its intent to do so," he said.
The latest change by the White House lifts the $100 cap on cigars and alcohol that U.S. travelers can take home.
Menendez argues that the Castro regime has gotten stronger since U.S.-Cuba policy began to change two years ago.
“Today’s regulatory economic changes from the White House not only benefit state-owned Cuban businesses and bolster the coffers of the Castro regime, but mark a profound shift away from our own commitment to the rule of law and the processes of democracy as we have always known them," he said.
Travel restrictions to the island still exist and Americans tourist can only go there for educational or journalistic purposes and to visit family, among other reasons.