Travel to Cuba may have felt legal for the last two years or so, but not until Thursday did a majority of senators support a bill to fully lift all restrictions on travel from the U.S. to the once forbidden destination.
According to the Washington Examiner, Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., reintroduced a bill that would terminate the remaining travel restrictions for Americans and legal residents who wish to visit Cuba.
But although the bill received 55 of the 100 votes, representing a majority, it still fell short of the 60 votes required to advance the legislation. According to Reuters, there was no indication the chamber’s Republican leaders would allow the measure to come up for a vote.
An earlier version of the bill introduced in 2015 similarly had a bipartisan mix of co-sponsors, but ultimately never made it to the Senate floor, according to The Hill.
The Freedom for Americans to Travel to Cuba Act of 2017 is co-sponsored by 52 other senators, a significant jump from the eight backers for the original 2015 bill.
"Recognizing the inherent right of Americans to travel to Cuba isn't a concession to dictators, it is an expression of freedom,” Flake said in a written statement. “It is Americans who are penalized by our travel ban, not the Cuban government.”
In December of 2014, it was announced that the United States would restore full diplomatic relations with Cuba and open an embassy in Havana for the first time in more than 50 years.
In a deal negotiated during 18 months of secret talks hosted largely by Canada and encouraged by Pope Francis, who hosted a final meeting at the Vatican, then U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro agreed in a telephone call to put aside decades of hostility to find a new relationship between the United States and the island nation just 90 minutes off the American coast.
However, President Donald Trump has threatened to reverse the normalization of ties with Cuba.