Senators Introduce Legislation to Lift Cuba Travel Ban

PHOTO: A driver waits for passengers in his old American car in Havana, Cuba on Jan. 20, 2015.Adalberto Roque/AFP/Getty Images
A driver waits for passengers in his old American car in Havana, Cuba on Jan. 20, 2015.

A bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation today that would end the travel ban between the U.S. and Cuba -– the first legislation to be introduced this year following President Obama’s executive action to start opening diplomatic relations with Cuba.

“We’ve tried this current policy that we have prohibiting travel for about 50 years, and it hasn’t worked, so it’s time for something new,” Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Arizona, one of the sponsors of the bill, said. “It’s time to allow Americans to travel freely to Cuba.”

“It makes no sense to have this prohibition,” Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, another sponsor of the bill, said.

The legislation, titled “The Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act of 2015,” is sponsored by four Republican and four Democratic senators. The Republican senators include: Flake, Jerry Moran of Kansas, Mike Enzi of Wyoming and John Boozman of Arkansas.

They said they expected other farm-state senators to join them in lifting the travel ban. The Democratic sponsors: Leahy, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Tom Udall of New Mexico and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island.

Even though the bill has Republican support, it’s an open question whether the legislation to lift the travel ban will be called for a vote in the Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been critical of the administration’s Cuba policy, saying he defers to Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who is an ardent critic of lifting the travel ban or the embargo.

Earlier this month, the White House eased restrictions on the U.S. travel ban by permitting travel to Cuba for 12 categories of people, including Americans with family in Cuba, employees on official business for the U.S. and foreign governments, and journalists.

Congress will need to pass legislation lifting the travel ban in order for all Americans to travel to the country located just 90 miles from the United States.