Bill would lift Cuba travel embargo

Bill would lift Cuba travel embargo

A bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced legislation in the Senate Thursday to lift the U.S. travel embargo on Cuba, one month after President Obama announced sweeping changes in his administration's policy toward Havana. 

“Some will say that we ought to receive something in exchange for this, that if we’re giving up something, we ought to get some concession from the Cuban government” said Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeThe Memo: Tide turns on Kavanaugh Key GOP senators appear cool to Kavanaugh accuser's demand Gillibrand: Kavanaugh accuser shouldn't participate in 'sham' hearing MORE, (R-Ariz.). “I think we all need to remember this is a sanction, or prohibition on Americans, not Cubans.” 

Flake went on to say that America’s not offering a concession, it’s simply giving its citizens the right to travel wherever they would like to, barring a national security threat. 

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“90 miles,” Durbin said. “They are 90 miles away. It isn’t as if the United States is half way around the world … If you look at it, we’re clearly by proximity in better shape to have an impact on the future of Cuba than any other nation.” 

But Durbin said he doesn’t expect to see Cuba change overnight. 

“By having these exchanges, by opening up for example Cuba to the world of the Internet, we’re going to see an acceleration of debate, an acceleration of an exchange of ideas,” he said. “All of these things, I think, are in the best interest of Cuba and the United States.”

The Obama Administration passed regulations earlier this month that allow travelers who qualify under a dozen broad categories of authorized travel to visit the country without applying for a license. 

Those categories include visiting family, conducting business, journalism, government meetings, research, education, religious purposes, public performances, athletic competitions and humanitarian projects. 

But Americans are still not allowed to travel to Cuba for tourism. The bill would repeal in its entirety the ban on travel and end restrictions on banking transaction related to such travel. 

Flake could not say what the high water mark of support in the Senate will be, but he’s expecting more of his colleagues on both side of the aisle to sponsor the bill.  

“We’ve got... four right now,” he said. “We’ll be adding Republican co-sponsors and Democrat co-sponsors. There will be a House bill that will be introduced as well.” 

 This story was updated at 12:56 p.m.