By Billy House | Republic Washington Bureau
Arizona GOP Rep. Jeff Flake today teamed with an influential House Democrat to introduce a bill to lift the prohibition on Americans traveling to Cuba.
“A new approach is long overdue,” said Flake said in a written statement. His bill, (H.R. 654), is co-sponsored with House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel, D-N.Y.
Flake depicted the fading health of long-time Cuban leader Fidel Castro as a time for a new approach to Cuban-America relations.
“For nearly fifty years our current Cuba policy has done little to bring democracy to Cuba,” said Flake, in a statement.
“Far from hastening democratic reforms, our current policy has given Fidel Castro a convenient scapegoat for his own regime’s failures. With the Cuban government taking new shape, we shouldn’t give the new leader the same excuses we’ve given the old one,” Flake said.
Flake has long said that he believes that the most effective way to hasten democratic reforms in Cuba is to ease trade and travel restrictions currently imposed by the U.S.
Less than six months after taking his congressional seat in 2001, Flake got his House colleagues to pass an amendment lifting restrictions on U.S. citizen travel to Cuba - by barring the Treasury Department from enforcing them restrictions.
But the Bush administration and Republican leaders have systematically removed it in negotiations with the Senate from a final bill every year.
Now, with Democrats in control of both chambers of Congress, the White House might not have the same cooperation of House and Senate leaders in blocking a renewed effort to ease the travel restrictions.