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 FlakePoll: 33% of Kentucky voters approve of McConnell Trump suggests Heller lost reelection bid because he was 'hostile' during 2016 presidential campaign Live coverage: Trump delivers State of the Union 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. 

Sens. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahySenate plots to avoid fall shutdown brawl Booker wins 2020 endorsement of every New Jersey Democrat in Congress The Hill's Morning Report - Can Bernie recapture 2016 magic? MORE (D-Vt.), Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinKids confront Feinstein over Green New Deal Senate plots to avoid fall shutdown brawl Overnight Energy: Trump ends talks with California on car emissions | Dems face tough vote on Green New Deal | Climate PAC backing Inslee in possible 2020 run MORE (D-Ill.), John BoozmanJohn Nichols BoozmanGOP senators read Pence riot act before shutdown votes On The Money: Shutdown Day 26 | Pelosi calls on Trump to delay State of the Union | Cites 'security concerns' | DHS chief says they can handle security | Waters lays out agenda | Senate rejects effort to block Trump on Russia sanctions Senate rejects effort to block Trump on Russia sanctions MORE (R-Ark.), Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranThe Hill's Morning Report — Emergency declaration to test GOP loyalty to Trump The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump escalates fight with NY Times The 10 GOP senators who may break with Trump on emergency MORE (R-Kan.), Mike EnziMichael (Mike) Bradley EnziWill Senate GOP try to pass a budget this year? Presumptive benefits to Blue Water Navy veterans are a major win If single payer were really a bargain, supporters like Rep. John Yarmuth would be upfront about its cost MORE (R-Wyo.) and Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallHillicon Valley: House panel takes on election security | DOJ watchdog eyes employee texts | Senate Dems urge regulators to block T-Mobile, Sprint deal | 'Romance scams' cost victims 3M in 2018 Dems urge regulators to reject T-Mobile, Sprint merger Dems wary of killing off filibuster MORE (D-N.M.), are co-sponsoring the Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act of 2015. 

“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.