The Rocky Mountain News
The Senate has taken a giant step toward recognizing the right of Americans to travel where they wish, voting 59 to 38 to ease the ban on Americans traveling to Cuba. The House had earlier voted 227 to 188 to do so.
Previously, the House Republican leadership, at the behest of the White House, had managed to bottle up an easing of the ban. But now that amendment likely will survive, setting up a confrontation with President Bush.
Bush’s aides have said he will veto the bill, a $90 billion appropriation to fund the departments of Treasury and Transportation, if the amendment is attached. That means the bill, already almost two months late, would have to go back to Congress to be reworked.
The president is in a bind. He needs the Cuban-American vote but also needs the support of farm-state lawmakers, many of them Republicans, the biggest proponents of easing travel and trade restrictions on Cuba. Since a ban on farm sales to Cuba was eased in 2000, American farmers have sold $282 million worth of agricultural goods to Cuba. Some 140,000 people traveled to Cuba last year, mainly Cuban-Americans with family on the island.
The president shouldn’t expend the political capital to fight Congress on the Cuba travel ban. He’s on the wrong side of the issue - the right of Americans to travel freely - and even if he succeeds, he’s fighting a rear-guard action he’s ultimately destined to lose.