Senators introduce bill allowing free travel to Cuba

(From left) U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL), Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) holding a news conference at the Hotel Saratoga Jan. 19, 2015 in Havana, Cuba. The members of Congress formed a delegation that visited Cuba for three days and met with the foreign minister, other government officials and some political dissidents.

Eight U.S. senators — four of them Democrats, four Republicans — on Thursday (Jan 29) introduced a bill that would allow American citizens to travel to Cuba without restrictions.

As described by them in a joint statement, “this bipartisan bill would end restrictions in laws enacted in 1996 and 2000 on travel by American citizens and legal residents to Cuba – restrictions that do not exist for travel by Americans to any other country in the world. The bill would also end restrictions on related transactions incident to such travel, such as banking transactions.”

The bill, S. 299, will have a companion bill in the House of Representatives. Reps. Jim McGovern (D-MA) and Mark Sanford (R-SC) plan to introduce it next week.

S. 299 is authored by senators Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Mike Enzi (R-WY), Tom Udall (D-NM), John Boozman (R-AR), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).The bill is brief and reads as follows:

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

This Act may be cited as the “Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act of 2015.”

SEC. 2. TRAVEL TO CUBA.

On or after the date of the enactment of this Act, and subject to Section 3,

(1) the President may not prohibit or otherwise regulate, directly or indirectly, travel to or from Cuba by United States citizens or legal residents, or any of the transactions incident to such travel, including banking transactions; and

(2) any regulation in effect on such date of enactment that prohibits or otherwise regulates travel to or from Cuba by United States citizens or legal residents, or any of the transactions incident to such travel, including banking transactions, shall cease to have any force or effect.

SEC. 3. EXCEPTIONS.

Section 2 shall not apply in a case in which the United States is at war with Cuba, armed hostilities between the two countries are in progress, or there is imminent danger to the public health or the physical safety of United States travelers.

SEC. 5. INAPPLICABILITY.

21 The provisions of this Act apply notwithstanding section 102(h) of the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (LIBERTAD) Act of 1996 (22 U.S.C. 6032(h)) and section 910(b) of the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000 (22 U.S.C. 7209(b)).

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