President Obama called on Congress to take the final step to formally end the embargo on Cuba during his State of the Union address Tuesday.
The embargo represents a “legacy of mistrust” between the communist nation and the U.S. and is “long past its expiration date," Obama said.
“When what you’re doing doesn’t work for 50 years, it’s time to try something new,” he urged Congress.
The president said he was “overjoyed” to see Alan Gross, the U.S. aid worker who was imprisoned in Cuba until last month, back in the United States.
Gross, who attended the speech as a guest of first lady Michelle ObamaMichelle LeVaughn Robinson ObamaYouTube confirms it picked kids featured in Harris video Photos of the Week: Congressional Baseball Game, ashen trees and a beach horse The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Gears begin to shift in Congress on stalled Biden agenda MORE, received a standing ovation.
"Welcome home, Alan," Obama said as Gross pumped his fist and said "Thank you."
Gross was arrested in 2009 while serving as an international development worker in Cuba. The U.S. negotiated his release in December.
It coincided with the Obama administration’s announcement that it will move to normalize relations with Cuba.
Last week, the government eased travel restrictions to Cuba. U.S. citizens can now visit family, conduct business and participate in humanitarian missions there.
But only Congress can formally end the embargo.
"Our shift in Cuba policy has the potential to end a legacy of mistrust in our hemisphere; removes a phony excuse for restrictions in Cuba; stands up for democratic values; and extends the hand of friendship to the Cuban people,” Obama said. "And this year, Congress should begin the work of ending the embargo."