President Obama has reauthorized Cuba's listing on the Trading with the Enemy Act, a move that allows him to continue to use executive authority to improve ties with the Communist country.
Obama's action follows a unilateral decision last December to re-establish diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba, paving the way to embassies being opened in both countries.
The act, which must be reauthorized every year, gives the president the power to make changes to U.S. relations with listed countries, in this case that is Cuba.
Obama "continues to believe Congress should lift the embargo on Cuba and has already taken a number of steps to normalize relations and empower the Cuban people," National Security Council spokesman Peter Boogaard told ABC News. "That said, until the Congress acts, the Administration will continue to take prudent and responsible steps to allow commerce and travel, consistent with its authorities and within the continuing constraints of the embargo."
Officials say that in order to do regulatory changes, like those taken by the administration in January to allow expanded travel under 12-specific licenses, the president needs the authority embedded in the Trading with the Enemy Act.
Without the act, the standing U.S. law with respect to Cuba is the Helms-Burton act, or the embargo, which limits nearly all transactions, travel and business with the island nation.
Congress has made no effort to change the embargo, although legislation was introduced to committee earlier this year that would allow for all travel restrictions to be lifted.
Last month, ABC News learned that the administration has plans underway to make it easier for people to visit and do business with Cuba, through regulation changes at the Treasury Department and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Those changes however, wouldn't be possible without the power granted to the administration under the Trading with the Enemy Act.